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ai tl|e 



Edited by 







Translated by 


•witb a Préface by 




Copyright, 1898, 
By J. m. Dent and Company. 

Noriuood Press 
J. S. Cushitig; & Co. — Ber-wick Éf Smith 

Norivood Mass. U.S.^. 








. 60 


. 113 


. 181 


. 251 


WATERS (p. 20) . . . . . Frontispiece 




Draivn and Etched hy J. Ayton Symington 


NoNE of the three first stories contained in this volume 
{MaUre Cornélius has been added for reasons of space), 
can be counted by sober criticism among Balzac's happiest 
work, though there are, I believe, mélomanes who see some 
great thing in Gambara ; and the first is unquestionably the 
least good. 

I hâve never been able quite to understand, and I do not 
remember to hâve seen any spécial explanation of, the 
motives which made Balzac include L'Enfant Maudit in 
the Comédie Humaine. Except that it is shorter, and that 
the conduct of the story is of a slightly less irrational and 
amateurish character, it might be mistaken for one of those 
nightmares of the Taie of Terror kind which are so com- 
mon in the works of the eminent Horace de Saint-Aubin, 
alias Lord R'hoone, alias M. de Vilège, alias (with several 
others) Honoré de Balzac in his prentice stage. Part of 
U Israélite is not much worse, parts of Le Centenaire and 
L' Excommunié are distinctly better. If this story was actually 
written as late as 1831, the earlier of the two dates which 
it carries, and in the very flood-tide of Balzac's first cré- 
ative season, after he had at last found his way, it is a very 
odd instance of a ' throw-back ' to earlier and cruder methods 
and manners. I should be much more disposed, in face of 
the crudity of the opening and other incidents and the sim- 
plicity of the gênerai scheme, to believe that it was of much 
older date, and that Balzac included it among his better 
work with something of that well-known paternal or 
maternai perversity which refuses to acknowledge the actual 

X Préface 

ugliness of ofFspring. But he did include it ; there is no 
insurmountable objection to it on the score of morals ; and 
it even bas a certain additional daim to admission, as show- 
ing that earlier style, which so few bave now tbe courage to 
seek in its fuller and more uncbecked developments. So it 
appears, and perbaps some readers may tbink it less bad tban 
I do. It is worth noting tbat, witb a great altération of 
circumstances, tbere are some toucbes in tbe opening pas- 
sage of anotber overture, and a very excellent one, that to 
César Birotteau. 

Gambara and Massimilla Doni belong to a section of 
Balzac's work much more definite in reality tban the divi- 
sions which (rather ex post facto) he amused bimself witb 
making in it. He spent, for so busy a man, a good deal of 
time in Italy ; and it is clear that the country exercised on 
bis mind — a mind almost unequalled in its combination of 
activity and passivity — even more tban the influence which 
it is wont to exercise on susceptible personalities. But 
Balzac's Italy was still an Italy of what may be called Imag- 
inative convention, and be always peopled it witb persons 
somewbat resembling tbe Schedonis and Vivaldis of bis 
early Radclifîian studies, witb the idéal artist, and tbe equally 
idéal tyrants and beauties of tbe théâtre. Anything, bow- 
ever, that there might be of puppetry in tbis scheme was 
vivified by the fact tbat be bimself had an ardent, if not 
exactly an instructed, love for both music and painting. 
Tbe former cornes out in Gambara as it does in Le Cousin 
Pons^ but in a more idéal and fantastic fashion, as it does 
also in Massimilla Doni^ a very closely connected pièce, but 
with a mixture of other kinds of interest. 

The opening sketch of Andréa Morosini and that of the 
Italian restaurant must count among tbe very best tbings of 
their kind in Balzac. From what follows it is, of course, 
easy to say tbat Gambara's music-madness, witb the minor 
and farcical écho of the cookery momomania of Giardini, is 
only a sort of replica mutatis mutandis of tbe greater and 



finer pictures of similar frenzy in La Recherche de P Absolu 
and Le Chef-cT Œuvre Inconnu. It is true, but even if it 
were truer than it is, it would still be interesting to see a 
fresh présentation of this ' Quest for the Graal,' which 
always had the power of exciting the novelist to his best 
efforts. As for the part played by the Count and Murana, 
ail Balzac's ingenuity has not exactly succeeded in effacing 
its banality, and it must be regarded as a drawback to the 
story, which has nothing like it in the two masterpieces just 
referred to. 

There is very little of this feu divin in Massirnilla Doni^ 
and I do not myself see any very attractive feu d'enfer. 
The musical art is little more, to speak musical language, 
than a 'caprice'; and the rest, to use the frank term of the 
last century in Balzac's country, approaches a ' cochon- 
nerie.' Hère also I may be w^rong, but it certainly seems 
to me that Balzac had not a light hand enough for this 
kind of subject. He cannot get on w^ithout mixing philo- 
sophy, which sinks to the bottom, or attempts at Sternian 
humour, which float on the top in a fashion for which only 
Mr. Carlyle has been recently allowed to employ suitable 
metaphorical descriptions. 

Nevertheless, there are good things in Massirnilla., and 
the slight touches on what Balzac rightly speaks of as the 
dangerously hackneyed subject of Venice are excellent. 
He had better hâve joined it with Facino Cane as well as 
with Gamhara., and perhaps it would not be an unpardona- 
ble audacity to do so on the principle referred to above. 

The wide date oî U Enfant Maudit., 1831-36, isjustified 
by the circumstances of its appearance. The first part of 
it only, which was subsequently called Comment vécut la 
Mère., appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes for January 
1831 in three chapters. The second, called La Perle 
Brisée., appeared five years later (October 1836) in the 
Chronique de Paris. Next year it became an Etude Philoso- 
phique., and ten years later was subjoined in book form to 

xii Préface 

Madame de la Chanterie. But it had already gained en- 
trance into the Comédie with the more symmetrical sub- 
titles Comment vécut la Mère and Comment mourut le fils. 
Gambara appeared first in the Revue et Gazette Musicale 
de Paris during July and August 1837 in four chapters and 
a conclusion. Two years later it came out as a book with 
the Cabinet des Antiques; then, in 1849, ^^ -^^ Livre des 
douleurs^ with Massimilla Doni^ Les Proscrits^ and Séraphita. 
In 1846 it was entered in the Comédie. Massimilla Doni 
itself had meanwhile appeared in 1839 as a book with Une 
Fille d' Eve. Its subséquent history (a fragment had been 
published yet earlier) was that of Gambara. 

G. S. 


l'a the Baroness James de Rothschild 



One winter's night, at about two in the morning, the 
Comtesse Jeanne d'Hérouville was in such pain that, not- 
withstanding her inexpérience, she understood that thèse 
were the pangs of childbirth ; and the instinct which leads 
us to hope for relief from a change of position, prompted 
her to sit up in bed, either to consider the character of a 
new form of suffering, or to reflect on her situation. 

She was in mortal terror, less of the risk attending the 
birth of her first child, — a terror to most women, — than 
of the périls that awaited the babe. To avoid waking her 
husband, who lay by her side, the poor créature took pré- 
cautions which her excess of fear made as elaborate as 
those of an escaping prisoner. Though the pain became 
more intolérable every minute, she almost ceased to feel it, 
so intensely did she concentrate her whole strength in the 
effort to prop herself by resting her clammy hands on the 
pillow, to relieve her tortured frame from a position which 
left her powerless. 

At the slightest rustle of the immense green silk counter- 
pane under which she had known but little sleep since her 
marriage, she paused as though she had rung a bell. Com- 
pelled to watch the Count, she divided her attention 
between the creaking folds of the stuff, and a broad 


2 A Father's Curse 

weather-browned face whose moustache was close to her 
shoulder. If a louder breath than usual came through her 
husband's lips, it filled her with sudden fears that increased 
the crimson flush brought to her cheeks by her twofold 
suffering. A criminal who under cover of the night has 
reached the door of his prison and tries to turn the key he 
has found in some unyielding lock, without making a 
Sound, is not more timid or more daring. 

When the Countess found herself sitting up without 
having roused her keeper, she gave a little joyful jump that 
revealed the pathetic guilelessness of her nature ; but the 
smile died half-formed on her burning lips, a reflection 
clouded the innocent brow, and her long blue eyes resumed 
their sad expression. She sighed deeply, and with the 
utmost caution replaced her hands on the conjugal bolster. 
Then, as though it were the first time in her married life 
that she was free to act or think, she looked at everything 
about her, stretching her neck with eager movements, like 
those of a bird in a cage. To see her, it was easy to dis- 
cern how full of joy and frolic she once had been, and that 
fate had eut off her early hopes and transformed her in- 
genuous liveliness into melancholy. 

The room was such as those which, even in our day, 
some octogenarian housekeepers exhibit to travellers who 
visit old baronial homes, with the statement, ' This is the 
State bedroom where Louis XIII once slept.' Fine tapes- 
try of a generally brown tone was framed in deep borders 
of walnut wood, elegantly carved but blackened by time. 
The beams formed a coffered ceiling ornamented with 
arabesques of the previous century, and still showing the 
mottled grain of chestnut. Thèse décorations, gloomy in 
their colouring, reflected so little light that it was difficult 
to make out the designs, even when the sun shone straight 
into the room, which was lofty, broad, and long. And a 
silver lamp standing on the shelf ovcr the enormous fire- 
place gave so feeble a light that the quavering gleam might 

How the Mother Lived 3 

be compared to the misty stars that twinkle for a moment 
through the grey haze of an autumn night. 

The little monsters crouching in the marble carvings of 
this fireplace, which was opposite the countess's bed, made 
such grotesquely hideous faces that she dared not gaze at 
them. She was afraid of seeing them move, or of hear- 
ing a cackle of laughter from their gaping and distorted 

At this moment a terrifie storm was growling in the 
chimney, which echoed every gust, lending it doleful sig- 
nificance ; and the vast opening communicated so freely 
with the sky that the brands on the hearth seemed to 
breathe, glowing and becoming dark by turns as the wind 
rose and fell. The escutcheon, with the arms of the 
Hérouvilles carved in white marble, with ail its mantling 
and the figures of its supporters, gave a monumental effect 
to the érection which faced the bed, itself a monument to 
the honour and glory of Hymen. 

A modem architect would hâve been greatly puzzled to 
décide whether the room had been made for the bed, or 
the bed for the room. Two Cupids sporting on a walnut- 
wood tester garlanded with flowers might hâve passed 
muster as angels ; and the columns of the same wood 
which supported the canopy were carved with mythological 
allégories, of which the interprétation might be found 
either in the Bible or in Ovid's Métamorphoses. Remove 
the bed, and this baldachin would hâve been equally appro- 
priate in a church over the pulpit or the officiais' seats. 
The couple mounted to this sumptuous couch by three 
steps. It had a platform ail round it, and was hung with 
two curtains of green watered silk, embroidered in a large 
and gaudy design of branches, the kind of pattern known 
as ramages^ perhaps because the birds introduced were sup- 
posed to sing. The folds of thèse ample curtains were so 
rigid that at night the silken tissue might hâve been taken 
for métal. On the green velvet hanging with gold fringes, 

4 A Father's Curse 

at the head of this lordly couch, the superstition of the 
House of Hérouville had attached a large crucifix, over 
which the chaplain fixed a branch of box that had been 
blessed, when, on Palm Sunday, he renewed the holy water 
in the vessel at the foot of the Cross. 

On one side of the fireplace stood a wardrobe of richly 
carved and costly wood, such as brides still had given them 
in the country on their wedding day. Thèse old pièces of 
furniture, now so sought after by collectors, were the 
treasure-store whence îadies brought out their rich and 
élégant splendour. They contained lace, bodices, high 
ruffs, costly gowns, and the satchels, masks, gloves, and 
veils which were dear to the coquettes of the sixteenth 
century. On the other side, for symmetry, was a similar 
pièce of furniture, in which the Countess kept her books, 
papers, and jewels. Antique chairs covered with damask, 
a large greenish mirror of Venetian manufacture and hand- 
somely framed over a movable toilet table, completed the 
fittings of the room. The floor was covered by a Persian 
rug, and its price did honour to the Count's gallantry. On 
the uppermost broad step of the bed stood a small table, 
on which the waiting-woman placed every evening a cup 
of silver or of gold containing a draught prepared with 

When we havc gone on a few steps in life we know 
the secret influence exerted over the moods of the mind by 
place and surroundings. Who is there that has not known 
bad moments when the things about him hâve seemed to 
give some mysterious promise of hope ? Happy or misér- 
able, man lends an expression to the most trifling objects 
that he lives with ; he listens to them and consults them, 
so superstitions is he by nature. 

The Countess at this moment let her eyes wander over 
ail the furniture as if each thing had life. She seemed to 
be appealing to them for help or protection ; but their 
gloomy magnificence struck her as inexorable. 

How the Mother Lived 5 

Suddenlv the storm increased in violence. The young 
wife dared hope for no favour as she listened to the threat- 
ening heavens, for such changes of weather were, in those 
credulous times, interpreted in accordance with the mood or 
the habits of individual minds. She hastily looked round at 
the two Gothic Windows at the end of the room ; but the 
small size of the panes and the close network of lead did not 
allow her to see the sky and make sure whether the end of 
the world was at hand, as certain monks declared, greedy 
of donations. And, indeed, she might well believe in their 
prédictions, for the sound of the angry sea whose waves 
beat on the castle walls mingled with the war of the tem- 
pest, and the rocks seemed to quake. 

Though the fits of pain were now more fréquent and 
more severe, the Countess dared not rouse her husband ; 
but she studied his features as if despair had warned her 
to seek in them some comfort against so many sinister 

Ominous as everything seemed around the young wife, 
that face, in spite of the tranquil influence of sleep, looked 
more ominous still. The glimmer of the lamp, flickering 
in the gusts, died away at the fooî of the bed and only 
occasionally lighted up the Count's face, so that the dan- 
cing gleam gave the sleeping face the agitation of stormy 
thoughts. The Countess was hardly reassured when she 
had traced the cause of this effect. Each time that a blast 
of the gale flung the light across the large face, accentuating 
the shadows of the many rugosities that characterized it, 
she fancied that her husband would stare up at her with 
eyes of unendurable sternness. The Count's brow, as im- 
placable as the war then going on between the Church and 
the Calvinists, was ominous even in sleep ; many wrinkles, 
graven there by the agitations of a soldier's life, had given 
it a certain resemblance to the time-eaten heads that we see 
on monuments of that date ; and hair, like the white mossy 
beards on old oaks, prematurely grey, framed the face un- 

6 A Father's Curse 

graciously, while religious intolérance stamped it with brutal 

The shape of the aquiline nose, resembling the beak of 
a bird of prey, the dark puckered ring round a tawny eye, 
the prominent bones of hollow cheeks, the deep, unbending 
lines of the face, and the contemptuous pout of the under- 
lip, ail revealed ambition and despotism and force, ail the 
more to be dreaded because a narrow skull betrayed a total 
lack of wit, and courage devoid of generosity. This face 
was horribly disfigured, too, by a long scar across the right 
cheek, looking almost like a second mouth. The Count, 
at the âge of two and twenty, eager to distinguish himself 
in the unhappy religious struggle for which the massacre 
of Saint Bartholomew's gave the signal, had been terribly 
wounded at the siège of La Rochelle. The disfigurement 
of this wound increased his hatred for the heretical party, 
and by a very natural instinct he included in his antipathy 
every man with a handsome face. Even before this dis- 
aster he had been so ill-favoured that no lady would accept 
his homage. The only passion of his youth had been for 
a famous beauty know as the Fair Roman. The suscepti- 
bility that came of this fresh disfigurement made him diffi- 
dent to the point of believing it impossible that he could 
ever inspire a genuine passion, and his temper became so 
Savage that if he ever had a successful love adventure he 
must hâve owed it to the terror inspired by his cruelty. 

This terrible Catholic's left hand, which lay outside the 
bed, spread out so as to guard the Countess as a miser 
guards his treasure, completed the picture of the man ; that 
enormous hand was covered with hair so long, it showed 
such a network of veins and such strongly marked muscles, 
that it looked like a branch of beech in the clasp of cling- 
ing, yellow ivy shoots. A child studying the Count's face 
would hâve recognised in him one of the ogres of which 
dreadful taies are told by old nurses. 

Only to note the length and breadth of the place filled 

How the Mother Lived 7 

by the Count was enough to show how huge a man he 
was. His bushy, grizzled eyebrows shaded his eyeHds in 
such a way as to add to the light in his eyes, which 
sparkled with the ferocious glare of a wolf 's at bay in the 
thicket. Below his léonine nose, a large unkempt mous- 
tache — for he scorned the cares of the toilet — hid his 
upper lip. Happily for the Countess, her husband's large 
mouth was at this moment speechless ; for the softest ac- 
cents of that hoarse voice made her shudder. Though the 
Comte d'Hérouville was hardly fifty years old, at first sight 
he might hâve passed for sixty, so strangely had the fatigues 
of war marred his face, though they had not injured his 
strong constitution ; but he cared little enough to be taken 
for a popinjay. 

The Countess, who was nearly eighteen, was indeed a 
contrast to his huge figure, pitiable to behold. She was 
fair and slender ; her chestnut hair, with gleams of gold in 
it, fell on her neck like a russet cloud, and formed the set- 
ting for a délicate face such as Carlo Dolce loved for his 
ivory-pale Madonnas, who look as if they were sinking 
under the burthen of physical suffering. You might bave 
deemed her an angel sent to mitigate the violent will of 
the Comte d'Hérouville. 

' No, he will not kill us,' said she to herself, after gazing 
for some time at her husband. ' Is he not frank, noble, 
brave, and true to his word ? True to his word ! ' As she 
thought over this a second time she shuddered violently 
and seemed stupefied. 

To understand the horror of the Countess's immédiate 
position, it is necessary to explain that this nocturnal scène 
took place in 1591 ; a period when civil war was raging 
in France, and the laws were ineffective. The excesses 
of the Ligue, averse to Henri IV's succession to the throne, 
surpassed ail the calamities of the wars of religion. License 
had indeed reached such a pitch that no one was surprised 
to see a powerful lord effecting the murder of his enemy, 

8 A Father's Curse 

even in broad daylight. When a military manœuvre, 
undertaken for private ends, was conducted in the name 
of the King or of the Ligue, it was always cried up by one 
side or the other. It was thus, indeed, that Balagny, a 
common soldier, was within an ace of being a sovereign 
prince at the very gâtes of France. 

As to murders committed in the family circle, if I may 
use such a phrase, ' no more were they heeded,' says a 
contemporary writer, ' than the cutting of a sheaf of straw,' 
unless they were marked by aggravated cruelty. Some 
time before the King's death, a lady of the Court assassi- 
nated a gentleman who had spoken of her in unseemly 
terms. One of Henri III's favourites had said to him : — 

*■ And by the Lord, sir, she stabbed him handsomely.' 

The Comte d'Hérouville, one of the most rabid royalists 
in Normandy, maintained obédience to the rule of Henri 
IV by the severity of his exécutions in ail that part of the 
province that lay adjacent to Brittany. As head of one 
of the richest houses in France, he had added considerably 
to his income from broad lands by marrying, seven months 
before the night on which this taie opens, Jeanne de Saint- 
Savin, a young lady who, by a sort of luck that was com- 
mon enough those days, when men died ofF like Aies, had 
unexpectedly combined in her own person the wealth of 
both branches of the Saint-Savin family. Necessity and 
terror were the only witnesses to this union. 

At a banquet given two months later, by the town of 
Bayeux to the Comte and Comtesse d'Hérouville in honour 
of their marriage, a discussion arose, which in those igno- 
rant times was thought preposterous enough ; it related to 
the legitimacy of children born ten months after a woman's 
widowhood or seven months after the wedding. 

'Madame,' said the Count, turning brutally on his wife, 
'as to your giving me a child ten months after my death, 
I cannot help myself. But I advise you not to begin with 
a seven-months' babe ! ' 

How the Mother Lived 9 

* Why, what would you do, you old bear ? ' asked the 
young Marquis de Verneuil, fancying that the Count was 
in jest. 

* I would wring both their necks at once, mother and 

So peremptory a reply closed the discussion imprudently 
opened by a gentleman of Lower Normandy. The guests 
sat silent, gazing at the pretty young Countess with a sort 
of terror. They were ail fully persuaded that in such an 
event this ferocious noble would carry out his threat. 

The Count's speech had sunk into the soûl of the un- 
happy young wife, and at that instant one of those flashes 
of foresight that sear the victim like a lightning gleam in 
the future, warned her that her child would be born at 
seven months. An inward flame glowed through her from 
head to foot, concentrating ail vitality about her heart so 
intensely, that she felt as if her body were in a bath of ice. 
And since then not a day had passed without this chill of 
secret terror coming to check the most innocent impulses 
of her soûl. The memory of the Count's look and tone 
of voice as he spoke that sentence of death, could still 
freeze the Countess's blood and quell her pain while, lean- 
ing over that sleeping face, she tried to read in it some 
signs of the pity she vainly sought when it was waking. 

The child, doomed to die before it was born, was strug- 
ling now, with increased energy, to come to the light of 
day, and she moaned, in a voice like a sigh : — 

*■ Poor little one ' 

But she got no further ; there are ideas which no mother 
can endure. Incapable of reason at such a moment, the 
Countess felt herself suffbcating under an unknown anguish. 
Two tears overflowed and trickled down her cheeks, leaving 
two glistening streaks, and hanging from the lower part of 
her white face like dewdrops from a lily. Who would 
dare to assert that the infant livcs in a neutral sphère which 
the mother's émotions cannot reach, during those times 

lo A Father's Curse 

when the soûl enwraps the body and communicates its 
impressions, when thought stirs the blood, infusing healing 
balm or liquid poison. Did not the terror that rocked the 
tree injure the fruit ? Were not the words, ' Poor Httle 
one ! ' a doom inspired by a vision of the future ? The 
mother shuddered with véhément dread, and her foresight 
was piercing. 

The Count's stinging retort was a linic mysteriously 
binding his wife's past life to this prématuré childbirth. 
Those odious suspicions, so publicly proclaimed, had cast 
on the Countess's memories a light of terror which was 
reflected on the future. Ever since that disastrous banquet, 
she had been perpetually striving to chase away a thousand 
scattered images which she feared as much as any other 
woman would hâve delighted in recalling them, and which 
haunted her in spite of her efforts. She would not allow 
herself to look back on the happy days when her heart had 
been free to love. Like some native melody which brings 
tears to the exile, thèse réminiscences brought her such 
delightful feelings that her youthful conscience regarded 
them as so many crimes, and used them to make the 
Count's threat seem ail the more dreadful ; this was the 
secret horror that tortured the Countess. 

Sleeping faces hâve a certain mildness that is due to the 
perfect repose of body and brain ; but though this truce 
made little altération in the hard expression of the Count's 
features, illusion displays such an attractive mirage to the 
unhappy, that the girl wife at last took some hope from 
this apparent peace. The storm, now spending itself in 
torrents of rain, was audible only as a melancholy moan ; 
fear and pain both gave her a brief respite. As she gazed 
on the man to whom fate had linked her, the Countess 
allowed herself to indulge in a day-dream of such intoxi- 
cating sweetness that she had not the strength of mind to 
break the spell. 

In a moment, by one of those visions which seem to 

How the Mother Lived ii 

hâve some touch of divine power, she saw in a flash the 
picture of happiness now lost beyond recall. 

First, as in a distant dawn of day, Jeanne saw^ the unpre- 
tending home where she had spent her careless childhood, 
— the green grass-plot, the purling stream, and the little 
room, the scène of her baby-games. She saw herself 
plucking flowers, to plant them again, wondering why they 
always faded without growing, in spite of constant w^ater- 
ing. Presently, but at first in dim confusion, the huge 
tovv^n appeared, and the great house blackened by time, 
u'hither her mother had taken her at the âge of seven. 
Her mocking memory show^ed her the elderly faces of the 
masters who had teased her ; and, amid a flood of Italian 
and Spanish words, repeating songs in her brain to the 
music of a pretty rebec, she saw her father's figure. She 
went out to meet the Président on his return from the court 
of justice, she saw him dismount from his mule, by the 
step, took his hand to mount the stairs, while her prattle 
chased the anxieties he could not always put ofF with his 
black or red gown, trimmed with the black and white fur 
which in sheer mischief she had clipped with her scissors. 

She merely glanced at her aunt's confessor, the Prior of 
the Convent of Poor Clares, a stern and fanatical priest 
who was to initiale her into the mysteries of religion. 
Hardened by the intolérance induced by heresy, this old 
man was perpetually rattling the chains of Hell ; he would 
talk of nothing but the vengeance of Heaven, and terrified 
her by impressing on her that she was perpetually in the 
sight of God. Thus intimidated she dared not lift her eyes, 
and thenceforth felt nothing but respect for her mother 
whom she had till then made the partner of ail her fun. 
Religious awe took possession of her youthful soûl when- 
ever she saw that well-beloved mother's blue eyes turned 
on her with an angry look. 

Then suddenly she was in her later childhood, while as 
yet she understood nothing of life. She half laughed at 

12 A Father's Curse 

herself as she looked back on the days when her whole joy 
was to sit at work with her mother in the small tapestried 
room, to pray in a vast church, to sing a ballad accompany- 
ing herself on the rebec, to read a taie of knight-errantry 
in secret, to pull a flower to pièces out of curiosity, to find 
out what présent her father had in store for the high festi- 
val of St. John, — her patron saint, — and to guess at the 
meaning of speeches left unfinished in her présence. And 
then with a thought she wiped out thèse childish joys as 
we efface a word written in pencil in an album, dismissing 
the scènes her imagination had seized upon from among 
those the first sixteen years of her life could offer, to 
beguile a moment when she was free from pain. 

The charm of that limpid océan was then eclipsed by 
the glories of a more récent though less tranquil memory. 
The glad peace of her childhood was far less sweet than 
any one of the agitations that had come into the last two 
years of her life, — years rich in delights forever buried in 
her heart. The Countess suddenly found herself in the 
middle of an enchanting morning when, quite at the end 
of the large carved oak room that was used as a dining- 
room, she saw her handsome cousin for the first time. 
Her mother's family, alarmed by the riots in Paris, had 
sent this young courtier to Rouen, hoping that he would 
learn bis duties as a magistrate under the eye of his grand- 
uncle whose post he might one day hope to fill. The 
Countess involuntarily smiled as she recalled the swiftness 
with which she had made her escape as she caught sight of 
this unknown relative. In spite of her quickness in open- 
ing and shutting the door, that one glance had left so strong 
an impression on her mind of the whole scène, that at this 
moment she seemed to see him exactly as he had looked 
when he turned round. She had then merely stolen an 
admiring peep at the taste and magnificence of his Paris- 
made dress ; but now, bolder in her réminiscences, her eye 
more deliberately studied his cloak of violet velvet embroid- 

How the Mother Lived 13 

ered with gold and lined with satin, the spurs that orna- 
mented his boots, the pretty lozenge-shaped slashings of his 
doublet and trunk hose, and the falling ruff" of handsome 
lace that showed a neck as white as itself. She stroked a 
face adorned with a sniall moustache parted and curied up 
at each end, and with a royale of beard like one of the 
ermine tails in her father's robe. 

In the silence and the darkness, her eyes fixed on the 
silk curtains which she had ceased to see, forgetful of the 
storm and of her husband, the Countess dared to remember 
how, after many days which seemed like years so full were 
they, the garden shut in by old dark walls, and her father's 
gloomy house seemed to her luminous and golden. She 
loved and was loved ! How, in fear of her mother's stern 
eye, she had stolen one morning into her father's study to 
tell her maiden secret, after perching herself on his knees 
and playing such pretty tricks as had brought a smile to 
those éloquent lips, — a smile for which she waited before 
she said : ' And will you be very angry with me if I tell 
you something ? ' He had asked her many questions, and 
she for the first time told her love ; and she could hear him 
now saying : ' Well, my child, we will see. If he works 
hard, if he means to take my place, if you still like him, I 
will enter into the plot.' She had listened no more; she 
had hugged her father and upset everything, as she flew 
ofF to the great lime-tree where every morning, before her 
formidable mother was up, she kept tryst with the fascinat- 
ing Georges de Chaverny. The young courtier promised 
to devour Law and Custom, and he abandoned the splen- 
did adornments of the nobility of the sword to assume the 
severe dress of a magistrate. 

' I like you so much better in black ! ' she had told him. 

It was not true, but the fib had mitigated the lover's 
vexation at having to throw away his weapons. 

The memory of her wiles to cheat her mother, who had 
seemed sternly severe, revived the joys of her innocent 

14 A Father's Curse 

love, authorised and reciprocated : some meeting under the 
limes where they could move freely and alone ; some fur- 
tive embraces, stolen kisses, — ail the artless first-fruits of 
a passion never overstepping the limits of modesty. Living 
through those rapturous days once more, as in a dream she 
dared to kiss, in empty space, the young face with glowing 
eyes, the rosy lips that had spoken so perfectly of love. 

She had loved Chaverny, poor in riches ; but what treas- 
ures had she not discovered in a soûl as gentle as it was 
strong ? 

Then, suddenly, her father had died ; Chaverny was not 
appointed to his place ; civil war broke out in fiâmes. By 
her cousin's help she and her mother had found a secret 
asylum in a small town of Lower Normandy. 

And presently the successive deaths of various relations 
had left her one of the richest heiresses in France. But 
with comparative poverty ail joy had fled. The ferocious 
and terrible face of the Comte d'Hérouville, a suitor for 
her hand, rose up like a thunder-cloud spreading a pall 
over the gladness of the earth, till now bathed in golden 

The hapless Countess tried to shake ofF her memories of 
the scènes of tears and despair brought about by her per- 
sistent refusai. Vaguely she saw the burning of the little 
town, Chaverny as a Huguenot cast into prison, threatened 
with death, awaiting a hideous martyrdom. And then came 
the dreadful night when her mother, pale and dying, fell at 
her feet. Jeanne could save her cousin — she yielded. 
It was night ; the Count, blood-stained from the fight, was 
at hand ; a priest seemed to spring from the earth, torches, 
a church ; Jeanne was doomed to misery. 

Hardly could she say good-bye to the handsome cousin 
she had rescued. 

' Chaverny, if you love me, never see me more ! ' 

She heard her noble lover's retreating steps, and never 
saw him again. But she cherished his last look in the 

How the Mother Lived 15 

depths of her heart, the look she so often saw in her 
dreams bringino- light into them. 

Like a cat shut up in a lion's cage the young wife was 
in perpétuai dread of her master's claws, ever raised to 
strike her. The Countess felt it as crime when, on cer- 
tain days signalised by some unexpected pleasure, she put 
on the dress that the girl had worn the first time she had 
seen her lover. If she meant to be happy now it could 
only be by forgetting the past and thinking only of the 

' I do not feel that I am guilty,' said she to herself; 'but 
if I am guilty in the Count's eyes, is it not the same thing? 
And perhaps I am. Did not the Holy Virgin conceive 
without — ? ' 

She checked herself. 

At this instant, when her ideas were so hazy and her 
spirit was wandering in the world of fancies, her guileless- 
ness made her ascribe to her lover's last look, projecting 
bis very life, the power exerted over the mother of the 
Saviour by the angel's visit. But this idea, worthy of the 
âge of innocence to which her dreams had carried her back, 
vanished at the recollection of a conjugal scène more hor- 
rible than death. The poor Countess had no doubts as 
to the legitimacy of the child that was causing her such 
anguish. The first night of her married life rose before 
her in ail the horror of martyrdom, followed by many worse, 
and by more cruel days. 

'Ah, poor Chaverny ! ' cried she with tears, ' you who 
were so gentle, so gracious — you always were good to 

She looked round at her husband, as to persuade her- 
self yet that his face promised her the mercy she had paid 
for so dearly. 

The Count was awake. His tawny eyes, as bright as a 
tiger's, gleamed under his bushy eyebrows, and their gaze 
had never been more piercing than at this moment. The 

i6 A Father's Curse 

Countess, terrified by their glare, shrank under the coun- 
terpane and lay perfectly still. 

* What are thèse tears for ? ' asked the Count, sharply, 
pulling aside the sheet under which his wife was hidden. 
This voice, which always terrified her, was at this moment 
tempered to a semblante of kindness which she deemed of 
good augury. 

*■ I am in great pain,' said she. 

' Well, sweetheart, and is it a crime to be in pain ? 
Why do you tremble when I look at you ? Alas, what 
must I do to be loved ? ' 

Ail the wrinkles in his face seemed to gather between 
his eyebrows. 

' I am always a terror to you, I can see it ! ' he added 
with a sigh. 

Prompted by the instinct of feeble créatures, the Countess 
interrupted her husband with moans of pain, and then ex- 
claimed : ' I fear I may be sufFering from a miscarriage. I 
was walking on the rocks ail the afternoon and hâve per- 
haps overtired myself — ' 

As he heard this speech, the Sire d'Hérouville gave his 
wife a glance so fuU of suspicion that she turned red and 
shuddered. He mistook the artless girl's fear of him for 
the pangs of remorse. 

' Perhaps it is the beginning of timely labour ? ' he asked. 

' And, if so ? ' said she. 

' If so, and in any case, we must hâve the help of a 
skilled leech, and I will go to find one.' 

The gloomy air with which he spoke froze the Count- 
ess : she sank back in the bed with a sigh wrung from her 
more by a warning of her doom than by the pangs of the 
imminent crisis. This groan only convinced the Count 
of the probability of the suspicions aroused in his mind. 
While affecting a composure to which his tone of voice, 
his way of moving, and his looks gave the lie, he hastily 
got up, wrapped himself in his bed-gown that lay in an arm- 

How the Mother Lived 17 

chair, and began by locking a door near the flreplace, 
leading to the state rooms and the grand staircase. On 
seeing her husband pocket the key a forecast of misfortune 
oppressed the young wife ; she heard him open a door 
opposite to that he had locked, and go into the room where 
the d'Hérouvilles slept when they did not honour their 
wives with their noble company. ' The Countess knew 
nothing of this but from hearsay ; jealousy kept her hus- 
band always at her side. If military service required his 
absence from the state bed, the Count left more than one 
Argus at the castle, whose constant watchfulness proved his 
odious doubts. 

In spite of the effort made by the Countess to catch the 
sHghtest Sound, she heard no more. The Count had made 
his way into a long corridor adjoining his room, occupying 
the western wing of the building. His uncle. Cardinal 
d'Hérouville, an enthusiastic amateur of printed books, had 
collected there a library of some interest alike from the 
number and the beauty of the volumes, and prudence had 
led him to adopt in the walls one of the inventions due to 
monastic solitude or timidity. A silver chain attached to 
concealed wires acted on a bell hanging by the bed of a 
faithful retainer. The Count pulled the chain, a squire of 
his guard ère long approached, his boots and spurs clanging 
on the echoing steps of a newel stair in the high turret that 
flanked the western angle of the castle on the side towards 
the sea. 

As he heard the man come up, the Count went to stir 
the rust on the iron springs and bolts which closed the 
secret door from the tower into the gallery, admitting to 
this sanctuary of learning a man-at-arms whose stalwart 
build showed him to be worthy of his master. This re- 
tainer, only half awake, seemed to hâve made his way by 
instinct -, the horn lantern he carried threw so dim a light 
down the long room that his master and he were visible in 
the gloom like a couple of ghosts. 

i8 A Father's Curse 

' Saddle my charger this minute ! — and you must corne 
with me.' 

The order was given with an emphatic ring that startled 
the man into compréhension ; he looked up at the Count, 
and met so piercing a look that it was like an electric 

' Bertrand,' the Count added, laying his right hand on 
his squire's arm, * take ofF your armour and put on the 
uniform of a captain of the Spanish guard.' 

' 'S death, Monseigneur ! What, disguise myself as an 
adhèrent of the Ligue ? Pardon me, I will obey ; but I 
would as lief be hanged.' 

The Count, flattered on his weak side, smiled ; but to 
cover this expression, so strongly in contrast with that 
which characterised his features, he went on roughly : — 

' Take a horse out of the stable strong enough to enable 
you to keep up with me. We must fly like bullets shot 
out of an arquebuse. Be ready by the time I am. I will 

Bertrand bowed in silence and departed ; but when he 
had gone down a few steps, he said to himself as he heard 
the howling gale : — 

* Ail the devils are loose, by the Mass ! I should hâve 
been astonished if this one had remained quiet. It was 
on just such a night that we took Saint-Lô.' 

The Count returned to his room and found the dress 
which often did him service in carrying out a stratagem. 
After putting on a shabby doublet that looked as if it 
belonged to one of the poor troopers who were so rarely 
paid by Henri IV, he returned to the room where his wife 
lay moaning. 

' Try to sufFer in patience,' he said. *■ I will kill my 
horse if necessary to corne back the quicker and ease your 

There was nothing sinister in this speech, and the 

How the Mother Lived 19 

Countess, taking heart, was on the point of asking a ques- 
tion, when the Count suddenly went on : — 

* Can you tell me where your masks are kept? ' 

' My masks ? ' replied she. ' Good God ! What do 
you want with them ? ' 

*■ Where are they ? ' he repeated, with bis usual violence. 

* In the cabinet/ said she. 

The Countess could not help shuddering when she saw 
her husband sélect from among her things a half-mask, 
which the ladies of that time were as much accustomed 
to use as ladies of the présent day are to wearing gloves. 
When the Count had put on a shabby grey felt hat with a 
broken cock's feather, he was quite unrecognisable. He 
buckled a broad leather belt about his middle, and stuck 
through it a dagger which he did not usually carry. 

Thèse squalid garments gave him so terrible an aspect, 
and he approached the bed with so strange a look, that the 
Countess thought her last hour had come. 

' Oh, do not kill us ! ' she cried. *■ Leave me my child 
and I will love you well.' 

' You must feel guilty, indeed, to offer me as a ransom 
for your sins, the love you lawfully owe me.' 

The Count's voice sounded lugubrious through the vel- 
vet, and thèse bitter words were emphasised by a look as 
heavy as lead, crushing the Countess as it fell on her. 

' Dear God ! ' she cried sadly. * Then is innocence 
fatal ? ' 

' It is not your death that is in question,' replied her lord, 
rousing himself from the brown study into which he had 
sunk ; ' but you are required to do exactly, and for love of 
me, what at this moment I demand of you.' 

He tossed one of the masks on the bed, and smiled con- 
temptuously as he saw the start of involuntary terror that 
the light touch of the black velvet caused his wife. 

' You will give me but a puny babe ! ' said he. * When 
I return, let me find you with this mask over your face. I 

20 A Father's Curse 

will not suffer any base-born churl to be able to boast of 
having seen the Comtesse d'Hérouville.' 

' Why fetch a man to perform this office ? ' she asked, 
in a low voice. 

*■ Hey-day, my lady, am not I the master hère ? ' replied 
the Count. 

' What matters a mystery more or less ? ' said the 
Countess in despair. 

Her lord had disappeared, so the exclamation was not a 
danger to her ; though the oppressor's measures are as far- 
reaching as the terrors are of his victim. In one of the 
brief pauses that divided the more violent outbursts of the 
storm, the Countess heard the tramp of two horses that 
seemed to be flying across the dangerous sand hills and 
rocks, above which the old castle was perched. This 
Sound was soon drowned under the thunder of the waves. 

She presently found herself a prisoner in this dismal 
room, alone in the dead of a night by turns ominously 
calm or threatening, and with no one to help her avert a 
disaster which was coming on her with rapid strides. The 
Countess tried to think of some plan for saving this infant 
conceived in tears, and already her only comfort, the main- 
spring of her thoughts, the future hope of her affections, 
her sole and frail hope. Emboldened by a mother's fears, 
she went to take the little horn which her husband used for 
summoning his people, opened a window, and made the 
brass utter its shrill blast which was lost across the waste 
of waters, like a bubble blown into the air by a child. 

She saw how useless was this call unheeded by man, 
and walked through the rooms hoping that she might not 
find every escape closed. Having reached the library she 
sought, but in vain, for some secret exit ; she felt ail along 
the wall of books, opened the window nearest to the fore 
court of the château, and again rouscd the echoes with the 
horn, struggling in vain with the uproar of the storm. In 
her despair she resolved to trust one of her women, though 

How the Mother Lived 2i 

they were ail her husband's créatures ; but on going into 
the little oratory she saw that the door leading from this 
suite of rooms was locked. 

This was a terrible discovery. Such elaborate précau- 
tions taken to isolate her, implied a purpose of proceeding 
to some terrible deed. 

As the Countess lost ail hope, her sufFerings became more 
severe, and more racking. The horror of a possible mur- 
der, added to the exhaustion of labour, robbed her of her 
remaining strength. She was like a shipwrecked wretch 
who is done for at last by a wave less violent than many he 
has bufFeted through. 

The agonising bewilderment of pain now made her lose 
ail count of time. At the moment when she believed that 
the child would be born, and she alone and unholpen, when 
to her other terrors was added the fear of such disaster as 
her inexpérience exposed her to, the Count unexpectedly 
arrived without her having heard him come. The man 
appeared like a fiend at the expiration of a compact, claim- 
ing the soûl that he had bargained for ; he growled in a 
deep voice as he saw his wife's face uncovered, but he 
adjusted the mask not too clumsily and, taking her up in 
his arms, laid her on the bed in her room. 

The dread of this apparition and of being thus lifted up 
made her forget pain for a moment ; she could give a furtive 
glance at the actors in the mysterious scène, and did not 
recognise Bertrand who was masked like his master. After 
hastily lighting some candies, of which the glimmer mingled 
with the first sunbeams that peered in through the panes, 
the man went to stand in the corner of a window-bay. 
There, with his face to the wall, he seemed to be measur- 
ing its thickness ; and he stood so absolutely still that he 
might hâve been taken for a statue. 

The Countess then saw standing in the middle of the 
room a fat little man, quite out of breath, with a bandage 
over his eyes, and features so distorted by fear that it 

22 A Father's Curse 

was impossible to guess what their habituai expression 
might be. 

* By the Rood, master leech,' said the Count, restoring 
the stranger to the use of his eyes by twitching the bandage 
roughly down on to his neck, ' beware of looking at any- 
thing but the misérable créature on whom you are to exer- 
cise your skill; or, if you do, I fling you into the river that 
flows beneath thèse Windows, with a diamond necklace on 
that will weigh a hundred pounds and more ! ' And he 
gave a slight twist to the handkerchief that had served to 
bandage his bewildered hearer's eyes. 

' First see if this is a miscarriage ; in that case you answer 
for her life with your own. If the child is born alive bring 
it to me.' 

Having made this speech, the Count seized the unhappy 
leech by the middle, lifted him up like a feather, and set 
him down by the side of the Countess. He then went 
also to the window, where he stood drumming on the glass 
with his fingers, looking by turns at his man-at-arms, at the 
bed, and at the sea, as if promising the expected infant that 
the waves should be its cradle. 

The man whom the Count and Bertrand had with brutal 
inhumanity snatched from the sweetest slumbers that ever 
closed mortal eyes, to tie him on to the crupper of a horse 
which, he might hâve fancied, had ail hell at its heels, was 
a personage whose physiognomy was characteristic of the 
period, and whose influence was to be felt on the House of 

At no period were the noble classes less informed as to 
natural science, and never was astrology in greater request 
than at this time, for never was there a more gênerai désire 
to read the future. This common ignorance and curiosity 
had led to the greatest confusion in human acquirements ; 
everything was empirical and pcrsonal, for as yet theory had 
^chieved no nomenclature j printing was extremely costly 

How the Mother Lived 23 

and scientific communication was slow. The Church 
still persecuted the sciences of investigation based on the 
analysis of natural phenomena; and persécution engendered 
secrecy. Hence to the people as to the nobility, physicist, 
alchemist, mathematician and astronomer, astrologer and 
necromancer, — ail were embodied in the leech or médical 
practitioner. At that time the most scientific leech was 
suspected of magie; while curing the sick he was expected 
to cast horoscopes. 

Princes patronised the geniuses to whom the future was 
revealed ; they afForded them shelter and paid them pen- 
sions. The famous Cornélius Agrippa, who came to 
France as physician to Henri II, refused to foretell events 
as Nostradamus did, and Catherine De'Medici dismissed 
him in favour of Cosimo Ruggieri. Thus those men who 
were in advance of their âge and really worked at science 
were rarely appreciated ; they ail inspired the terror that 
was felt for occult studies and their results. 

Without being quite one of those famous mathematicians, 
the man snatched up by the Count enjoyed in Normandy the 
equivocal réputation of a leech who undertook mysterious 
dealings. This man was the sort of wizard who is to this 
day known to the peasants in various parts of France as a 
bone-setter {un rebouteur). The name is given to men of 
uncultured genius, who, without any professional study but 
hereditary tradition, and often by the long practice of which 
observation is accumulated in a family, can set bones ; that is 
to say, remedy fractured and dislocated limbs, besides curing 
certain maladies in man and beast, and possessing secrets 
reputed magical for the treatment of more serious diseases. 

Maître Antoine Beauvouloir — this was the bone-setter's 
name — had not only inherited important lore from his 
grandfather and father, both famous practitioners, but he 
was also learned in medicine, and studied natural science. 
The country folks saw his room full of books and of strange 
things, which gave his success a tinge of magie. Without 

24 A Father's Curse 

regarding him quite as a sorcerer, the people for thirty leagues 
about treated Antoine Beauvouloir with a respect verging 
on terror; and, which was far more dangerous for him, he 
was in possession of secrets of life and death concerning ail 
the noble families of the province. 

Like his grandfather and his father, he was famous for his 
skill in attending childbirths, abortions, and miscarriage. 

Now in thèse troubled times, lapses were common 
enough and passion violent enough to require the highest 
nobility sometimes to initiate Maître Beauvouloir into 
shameful or terrible secrets. His discrétion, vi^hich w^as 
necessary to his safety, was above suspicion, and his 
patients paid him generously, so that the fortune he had 
inherited augmented conspicuously. 

Always on the road, — sometimes taken by surprise, as 
we hâve just seen, sometimes obliged to spend several days 
in attendance on some great lady, — he was still unmarried ; 
besides, his ill-name had hindered some damsels from marry- 
inghim. Not so base as to find consolations in the chances 
of a profession which gave him so much power over fémi- 
nine weakness, the hapless bone-setter felt himself fitted for 
such family joys as he might not allow himself. The good 
man hid a warm heart under the deceptive surface of a 
cheerful temper that matched his chubby face, his rotund 
person, the nimbleness of his fat little body, and the blunt- 
ness of his speech. 

He wished to marry, to hâve a daughter who might con- 
fer his wealth on some man of family ; for he did not love 
his calling as a bone-setter, and longed to raise his family 
from the discrédit it was held in by the préjudices of the 

However, he derived no small satisfaction from the 
rejoicing and feasting which commonly succeeded his prin- 
cipal achievements. The habit of finding himself the most 
important person présent on such occasions had weighted 
his liveliness with a certain grave conceit. His ill-timed 

How the Mother Lived 25 

jests even were generally well talcen in critical moments 
when he affected a certain masterly deliberateness. Then 
he was as inquisitive as a pick-lock, as greedy as a grey- 
hound, and as gossiping as a diplomatist who can talk with- 
out ever betraying a secret. Barring thèse faults, developed 
by the various adventures into which he was brought by his 
profession, Antoine Beauvouloir passed for being the best 
soûl in Normandy. Although he was one of the few men 
superior to the spirit of the âge, the Sound sensé of a Nor- 
mandy countryman had warned him to keep his acquired 
ideas and discovered truths to himself. 

Finding himself by the bed of a woman in labour, the 
worthy bone-setter recovered his présence of mind. He 
proceeded to feel the masked lady's puise, without thinking 
about her, however; but, under cover of this médical pre- 
tence, he could, and did, reflect on his own position. 
Never, in any of the disgraceful and criminal intrigues 
where he had been compelled by force to act as a blind 
instrument, had précautions been taken with so much care 
as in the présent instance. Although his death had often 
been a matter of délibération, as a way of securing the suc- 
cess of enterprises in which he had found himself engaged 
in spite of himself, his life had never seemed more uncer- 
tain than at this moment. Before anything he was deter- 
mined to find out whom he was serving, and thus ascertain 
the extent of his danger, so as to be able to save his pre- 
cious skin. 

*■ What is the trouble ? ' he asked the Countess in an 
undertone, while arranging her so as to be able to give her 
the benefit of his expérience. 

' Do not sufFer him to hâve the child.' 

*■ Speak out ! ' cried the Count in a voice of thunder, 
which hindered the leech from hearing the victim's last 
word, ' Or else,' added the husband, disguising his voice, 
*say your In manus.' 

'Cry aloud,' said Beauvouloir to the lady. ' Cry out, by 

26 A Father's Curse 

the Mass ! This man's jewels will suit your neck no het- 
ter than mine. Courage, little lady.' 

' Go gently ! ' cried the Count. 

' My lord is jealous,' muttered the operator in a low, 
sharp tone that was happily drowned in the Countess's 

Happily for Maître Beauvouloir nature was lenient. It 
was more like abortion than childbirth, so tiny was the 
infant that presently appeared, and the mother's sufFerings 
were not severe. 

' By the Blessed Virgin/ exclaimed the bone-seîter, 'this 
is no miscarriage ! ' 

The Count stamped the floor till the boards quaked, and 
the Countess pinched the leech. 

*■ Aha ! Now I understand,' thought he. ' Then it 
ought to hâve been a miscarriage ? ' he asked in a whisper, 
and the Countess answered by an affirmative nod as if she 
dared not in any other way express herself. ' Ail this is 
not very clear,' thought the good man. 

Like ail men skilled in this branch of the médical art, 
Beauvouloir at once perceived that he had to deal with a 
woman in her first trouble, as he phrased it to himself. 
Though the modest inexpérience of her movements plainly 
showed the Countess's innocence, the leech, meaning to 
be Smart, exclaimed : — 

' The lady is as clever at it as if she had never donc 
anything else ! ' 

The Count then said with a coldness that was even 
more terrible than his fury : — 

' Give me the child ! ' 

' Do not give it him for God's sake ! ' said the mother, 
whose almost savage cry roused a generous courage in the 
little man, attaching him much more than he would hâve 
thought possible to this child of noble birth whom its 
father had cast off. 

'The child is not born yet j you are clamouring for 

How the Mother Lived 27 

nothing,' he said coldly to the Count, covering up the 
unhappy infant. 

Surprised to hear no cry the leech examined the child, 
believing it to be dead ,• the Count discovered the déception 
and sprang on him with a single bound. 

" By God and ail His saints ! ' the count yelled, ' will 
you give it to me ? ' and he snatched up the innocent 
victim which feebly wailed. 

' Take care ! It is deformed and scarcely alive,' said 
Maître Beauvouloir clutching the Count's arm. 'A seven- 
months' child, no doubt.' 

And with a superior strength given him by his passion- 
ate excitement, he held the father's hand, whispering, 
gasping into his ear : — 

' Spare yourself the crime; it will not live — ' 

' Wretch ! ' said the Count in a fury, as the bone-setter 
rescued the babe from his hold, '■ who says I wish the child 
to die ? Do you not see that I am caressing it ? ' 

' Wait till he is eighteen years old before you caress him 
in that fashion,' replied Beauvouloir, reasserting himself. 
' But,' he added, thinking of his own safety, for he had 
now recognised the Comte d'Hérouville, who in his rage 
had forgotten to disguise his voice, ' hâve him baptized at 
once and say nothing of my opinion to the mother, or you 
will kiU her.' 

The heartfelt joy betrayed by the Count's shrug when 
he was told that the infant must die, had suggested this 
speech to the old leech and had saved the child's life. 
Beauvouloir carried it back forthwith to the mother who 
had fainted away, and he pointed to her with an ironical 
gesture to frighten the Count by the state to which their 
discussion had reduced her. The Countess, indeed, had 
heard ail, for it is a not uncommon thing for the sensés to 
develop extrême sensitiveness in such critical situations. 
The cries of her infant lying by her side now brought her 
back to consciousness as if by magie, and she could hâve 

28 A Father's Curse 

believed that she heard the voice of angels when, under 
cover of the infant's wailing, the leech said in her car: — 

*■ Take great care of him and he will live to be a hun- 
dred. Beauvouloir knows what he is saying.' 

A heavenly sigh, a covert pressure of the old man's 
hand were his reward, and before placing the tiny créature 
in its impatient mother's arms, he carefully examined to 
see whether the father's ' caress,' of which the print still 
remained on its skin, had done no injury to its frail frame. 

The almost insane gesture with which the mother hid 
her babe, and the threatening look she flashed at the 
Count through the eye-holes of her mask made Beauvouloir 

'She will die if she loses her child too suddenly,' he said 
to the Count. 

During the latter part of this scène the Comte d'Hérou- 
ville seemed to hâve seen and heard nothing. Motionless, 
absorbed as it seemed in deep méditation, he was again 
drumming with his fingers on the window-panes. But at 
thèse last words of the leech's he turned upon him with an 
impulse of frenzied rage, and drew his dagger. 

*■ Contemptible lout ! ' cried he {manant^ a nickname used 
by the Royalists to insuit the Leaguers), ' impudent rascal ! 
Science, which has earned you the honour of becoming the 
helpmate of gentlemen when they are fain to prolong or 
eut short a hereditary race, hardly avails to hinder me from 
freeing Normandy of a wizard.' 

Still, to Beauvouloir's great relief, the Count violently 
thrust the dagger home into its sheath. 

* Are you incapable of finding yourself for once in the 
noble présence of a lord and his lady, without suspecting 
them of those base calculations which you allow among 
the common herd, forgetting that they, unlike the gently 
born, hâve no plausible motive for them ? Am I likely to 
hâve State reasons for the action you choose to attribute to 
me ? Kill my son ! Take him from his mother ! What 

How the Mother Lived 29 

put such nonsense into your head ? Am I a madman ? — 
Why alarm us as to the life of such a strong infant ? 
Villain ! I would hâve you know that I distrusted your 
braggart vanity. If you could hâve known the name of 
the lady you hâve brought to bed, you would hâve boasted 
of having seen her ! Pasques Dieu ! And you might by 
excess of précaution hâve killed perhaps the mother or 
the child. But remember now, your life shall answer for 
your discrétion and for their doing well ! ' 

The leech was dismayed by this sudden change in the 
Count's views. This extraordinary fit of affection for the 
deformed infant frightened him more than the fractious 
cruelty and gloomy indifférence of the Count's previous 
demeanour. In fact, his tone, as he spoke the last w^ords, 
betrayed a more elaborate plot to achieve a purpose which 
was certainly unchanged. 

Maître Beauvouloir accounted for this unforeseen révul- 
sion by the promises he had made to the father and the 

' I hâve it ! ' thought he. ' The noble gentleman does 
not wish to make his wife hâte him ; he will trust to 
Providence in the person of an apothecary. I must try 
to warn the lady that she may watch over her noble babe.' 

He was approaching the bed when the Count, who had 
gone to a closet, stopped him by an imperative word. On 
seeing the Count hold out a purse to him, Beauvouloir 
hastened, not without an uneasy satisfaction, to pick up 
the red net purse, full of gleaming gold, which was scorn- 
fully thrown to him, 

* Though you ascribed to me the ideas of a villain I do 
not think myself exonerated from paying you as a lord 
should. I say nothing about secrecy. This man,' and he 
pointed to Bertrand, ' has no doubt made it plain to you 
that wherever oak-trees or rivers are to be found, my 
diamonds and my necklaces are ready for such caitiffs as 
dare speak of me.' 

30 A Father's Curse 

And with thèse magnanimous words the colossus went 
slowly up to the speechless leech, noisily drew forward a 
chair and seemed to bid him be seated, like himself, by 
the lady's bedside. 

'Well, honey,' said he, * at last we hâve a son. It is 
great joy for us. Are you suffering ? ' 

' No,' murmured the Countess. 

The mother's astonishment and timidity, and the tardy 
expressions of the father's spurious satisfaction, ail con- 
vinced Maître Beauvouloir that some important factor hère 
escaped his usual acumen. His suspicions were not allayed 
and he laid his hand on the lady's, less to feel her puise 
than to give her a warning, 

' The skin is moist,' said he. ' There is no fear of any 
untoward symptoms. There will be a little milk-fever, no 
doubt ; but do not be alarmed ; it will be nothing.' 

The wily leech paused, and pressed the Countess's hand 
to attract her attention. 

' If you wish to hâve no fears for your child, Madame,' 
said he, ' keep it always under your own eye. Let it feed 
for a long time on the milk its little lips are already seek- 
ing. Nurse it yourself, and never give it any apothecaries' 
drugs. The breast is the cure for ail infantile complaints. 
I hâve seen many a birth at seven months, but never one 
accompanied by less pain. It is not surprising, the child 
is so thin. I could put it in a shoe ! I do not believe it 
weighs fifteen ounces. Milk, milk ! If he is always lying 
on your breast you will save him.' 

Thèse words were emphasised by another pressure of 
her fingers. In spite of two shafts of flame shot by the 
Count through the eye-holes of his mask, the good man 
spoke with the imperturbable gravity of a leech deter- 
mined to earn his fee. 

*■ How now, bone-setter, you are leaving your old black 
hat behind you ! ' said Bertrand, as he escorted the apoth- 
ecary out of the room. 

How the Mother Lived 31 

The motive of the Count's clemency towards his son 
was based on a légal et cetera. At the moment when 
Beauvouloir rescued him from his clutches, avarice and 
the usage of Normandy rose before his mind. Each, by 
a sign as it were, numbed his fingers and silenced his 
vengeful passions. One suggested to him, 'Your wife's 
property will not come to the family of Hérouville unless 
through an heir maie.' The other pictured the Countess 
as dead and her estâtes claimed by a collatéral branch of 
the Saint-Savins. Both counselled him to leave the re- 
moval of the changeling to the act of nature and await 
the birth of a second born, strong and healthy, when he 
might snap his fingers at his wife's chances of living and 
at his first-born. 

He did not see the child, he saw an estate, and sud- 
denly his affection was as large as his ambition. In his 
anxiety to comply with the requirements of custom, he 
only wished that this half-dead babe should acquire the 
appearance of strength. 

The mother, who knew the Count's temper, was even 
more astonished than the leech ; she still had some in- 
stinctive fears, which she sometimes boldly expressed, for 
the courage of a mother had in an instant given her 

For some days the Count was assiduous in his care of 
his wife, showing her such attentions as interest dictated, 
giving them even a show of tenderness. The Countess 
was quick to perceive that they were for her alone. The 
father's hatred of his child was visible in the smallest dé- 
tails ; he would never look at it or touch it ; he would 
start up suddenly and go away to give orders the instant 
it was heard to cry ; in short, he seemed to forgive it for 
living only in the hope of its dying. 

Even this much of self-restraint was too great an effort 
for the Count. On the day when he discovered that the 
mother's keen eye saw, without understanding, the danger 

32 A Father's Curse 

that threatened her child, he announced that, on the mor- 
row of the Countess's thanksgiving service, he would leave 
home, on the pretext of leading his men-at-arms to the 
assistance of the King. 

Such were the circumstances which preceded and sur- 
rounded the birth of Etienne d'Hérouville. Even if the 
Count had not had, as an all-sufficient reason for con- 
stantly desiring the death of this disowned son, the fact 
that he had wished it from the first, even if he would hâve 
smothered the odious human instinct of persecuting the 
victim who has already sufFered, and if he had not been 
under the intolérable necessity of feigning affection for a 
hapless changeling of whom he believed Chaverny to be 
the father, poor little Etienne would none the less hâve 
been the object of his aversion. The misfortune of his 
rickety and sickly constitution, aggravated, perhaps, by 
the paternal caress, was a standing ofFence to his pride 
as a father. 

Though he execrated handsome men, he no less de- 
tested weakly men in whom intelligence supplied the place 
of strength of body. To please him a man must be ugly, 
tall, stalwart, and ignorant. Etienne, whose délicate frame 
compelled him in some sort to dévote himself to sedentary 
studies, was certain to find in his father a relentless foe. 
His struggle with the giant had begun in his cradle, and 
his only ally against so formidable an antagonist was his 
mother's heart ; a love which, by a touching law of nat- 
ure, was increased by the dangers that threatened it. 

Left in sudden and utter solitude by her husband's ab- 
rupt departure, Jeanne de Saint-Savin owed the only 
semblance of happiness that could cheer her life, to her 
infant. This child, for whose existence she had sufFered 
on the score of Chaverny, was as dear to her as if he had 
indeed been the ofFspring of illicit passion ; she nursed him 
herself and felt no weariness. She would never accept 

How the Mother Lived ^3 

any help from her women ; she dressed and undressed the 
child, taking a fresh pleasure in every little care. This 
incessant occupation and hourly attention, the punctuality 
with which she would walce in the night to suckle the 
child, were unbounded happiness. Joy lighted up her face 
as she attended to the httle creature's needs. 

As Étienne's birth had been prématuré, many Uttle gar- 
ments were lacking ; thèse she would make herself, and she 
did it with such perfection as you mistrusted mothers may 
imagine, who hâve stitched in gloom and silence for your 
adored little ones. Each needleful of thread brought with 
it a memory, a hope, a wish, a thousand thoughts sewn 
into the stuff with the dainty patterns she embroidered. 
AU thèse extravagances were repeated to the Comte 
d'Hérouville and added to the gathering storm. The 
hours of the day were too few for the myriad interests 
and elaborate précautions of the devoted mother ; they flew, 
filled with secret happiness. 

The leech's warnings were ever présent to the Countess. 
She dreaded everything for the child, the services of the 
women and the touch of the men-servants; gladly would she 
never hâve slept, to be sure that nobody came near Etienne 
while she was slumbering ; he slept by her side. In short 
suspicion kept watch over his cradle. 

During the Count's absence she even dared to send for 
the leech, whose name she had not forgotten. Beauvouloir 
was to her a man to whom she owed an immense debt of 
gratitude ; but above ail she wanted to question him as to a 
thousand matters concerning her son. If Etienne was to be 
poisoned how should she forefend any such attempt ? How 
should she strengthen his feeble constitution ? When should 
she fitly wean him ? If she should die, would Beauvouloir 
undertake to watch over the poor little one's health .'' 

In reply to the Countess's enquiries Beauvouloir, truly 
touched, replied that he too feared some scheme to poison 
Etienne. On this point Madame la Comtesse had nothing 

34 -A- Father's Curse 

to fear so long as she nursed him ; and afterwards he ad- 
vised her always to taste the child's food. 

' If, Madame la Comtesse, you should at any time notice 
any flavour that strikes you as strange, pungent, bitter, 
strong, briny — anything that startles your taste, reject the 
food. Let ail the child's clothes be washed in your prés- 
ence, and keep the key of the closet where they lie. And 
if anything should happen send for me ; I will come.' 

The old bone-setter's advice was stamped on Jeanne's 
heart, and she begged him to dépend on her as one 
who would do ail in her power to serve him. Beauvouloir 
then confided to her that she had his happiness in her 

He briefly told the Countess how that the Comte 
d'Hérouville, for lack of fair and noble dames to regard him 
with favour at Court, had in his youth loved a courtesan 
known as La Belle Romaine, who had previously been 
mistress to the Cardinal de Lorraine. This woman, whom 
he had soon deserted, had followed him to Rouen to beseech 
him in favour of a daughter to whom he would hâve noth- 
ing to say, making her beauty an excuse for refusing to 
acknowledge her. At the death of this woman in extrême 
poverty, the poor girl, whose name was Gertrude, and who 
was even handsomer than her mother, was taken under the 
protection of a convent of Poor Clares, whose Mother 
Superior was Mademoiselle de Saint-Savin, the Countess's 

Beauvouloir, having been sent for to attend Gertrude, 
had fallen madly in love with her. 

' If you. Madame la Comtesse,' he said in conclusion, 
' would interfère in this matter, it would not only amply 
repay anything you may say that you owe me, but make 
me eternally your debtor.' 

It would also justify him in coming to the château, which 
was not without danger in the Count's présence, and sooner 
or later the Count would no doubt take an interest in such 

How the Mother Lived ^5 

a beautiful giri, and might some day perhaps promote her 
interests bv making him his physician, 

The Countcss, soft-hearted to ail true lovers, promised 
to help the poor leech. And she did so warmly espouse 
his cause, that on the occasion of the birth of her second 
child, when, as was then the custom, she was authorised in 
asking a faveur of her husband, she obtained a marriage 
portion for Gertrude, and the fair bastard, instead of taking 
the veil, married Beauvouloir. This little fortune and the 
bone-setter's savings enabled him to purchase Forcalier, a 
pretty little place adjoining the lands of Hérouville which 
was sold bv its owners. 

Thus, comforted by the worthy leech, the Countess felt 
her life well filled by joys unknown to other women. 
Every woman indeed is lovely when she presses her babe 
to her breast to still its cries and soothe its little pains ; but 
even in an Italian picture it would be hard to find a more 
touching sight than the young Countess as she saw Etienne 
thriving on her milk, and her own blood, as it were, infus- 
ing life into the little créature whose life hung on a thread. 

Her face beamed with love as she looked at the adored in- 
fant, dreading lest she should indeed discern in him a feature 
resembling Chaverny, of whom she had too often thought. 
Thèse reflections, mingling on her brow with the expres- 
sion of her joy, the brooding eye with which she watched 
her son, her longing to infuse into him the vitality she felt 
at her heart, her high hopes, the prettiness of her move- 
ments, ail composed a picture that won the women about 
her; the Countess triumphed over spies. 

Very soon thèse two weak créatures were united by 
common ideas, and understood each other before language 
could help them to explain themselves. When Etienne 
began to use his eyes with the wondering eagerness of 
an infant, they fell on the gloomy panels of the state 
bedroom. When his youthful ears first appreciated sound, 
and discerned their différence, he heard the monotonous 

^6 A Father's Curse 

dash of the sea as the waves broke against the rocks 
with a répétition as regular as the pendulum of a clock. 
Thus place and sound and scenery, ail that can strike the 
sensés, prépare the intellect, and form the character, predis- 
posed him to melancholy. 

Was not his mother fated to live and die amid clouds of 
sadness ? From the day of his birth he might easily hâve 
supposed that she was the only being existing upon earth, 
hâve regarded the whole world as a désert, and hâve been 
used to the feeling of self-reliance which leads us to live in 
solitude, and seek for happiness in ourselves by developing 
the resources of our own mind. Was not the Countess 
condemned to pass her life alone, and find her ail in her 
boy, who, like her lover, was a victim to persécution? 

Like ail children who sufFer much, Etienne almost 
always showed the passive temper which was so sweetly 
like his mother's. The delicacy of his nerves was so great 
that a sudden sound or the présence of a restless and noisy 
person gave him a sort of fever. You might hâve fancied 
him one of those frail insects for which God seems to tem- 
per the wind and the heat of the sun ; incapable, as they 
are, of fighting against the least obstacle he, like them, sim- 
ply yielded, unresisting and uncomplaining, to everything 
that opposed him. This angelic patience filled the Count- 
ess with a deep émotion which overruled ail the fatigue 
of the constant attentions his frail health demanded of 

She could thank God who had placed Etienne in an 
atmosphère of peace and silence, the only surroundings in 
which he could grow up happy. His mother's hands, so 
strong and to him so gentle, would often lift him high up 
to look out of the pointed Windows. From them his eyes, 
as blue as his mother's, seemed to be taking in the grandeur 
of the océan. The pair would sit for hours contemplating 
the infinité expanse of waters, by turns gloomy or bright, 
silent or full of sound. 

How the Mother Lived 37 

Thèse long méditations were to Etienne an apprentice- 
ship to grief. Almost always his mother's eyes would fill 
with tears, and during thèse sad day-dreams Etienne's little 
face would look like a fine net puckered by too heavy a 
load. Before long his precocious appréhension of sorrow 
taught him how much his little play could affect the Count- 
ess, and he would try to divert her by such caresses as she 
bestowed on him to soothe his pain. And his little elfin 
hands, his babbled words, never failed to dissipate her sad- 
ness. If he was weary, his instinctive care for her kept 
him from complaining. 

' Poor, sensitive darling ! ' cried the Countess, seeing him 
drop asleep from fatigue after a game which had driven 
away one of her fits of brooding. ' Where are you 
to live ? Who will ever understand you — you, whose 
tender soûl will be wounded by a stern look ? You who, 
like your unhappy mother, will value a kindly smile as 
something more precious than ail else this world can be- 
stow ? Angel, your mother loves you ! But who will 
love you in the world ? Who will ever suspect the jewel 
hidden in that frail frame ? No one. Like me, you will be 
alone on earth. God préserve you from ever knowing, as I 
hâve done, a love approved by God but thwarted by man.' 

She sighed and she wept. The easy attitude of her child, 
as he slept on her knees, brought a melancholy smile to 
her lips. She gazed at him for long, enjoying one of those 
raptures which are a secret between a mother and God. 

Finding how greatly her voice, with the accompaniment 
of a mandolin, could charm her boy, she would sing the 
pretty ballads of the time, and could fancy she saw on his 
lips, smeared with milk, the smile with which Georges de 
Chaverny had been wont to thank her when she laid down 
her rebec. She blamed herself for thus recalling the past, 
but she returned to it again and again. And the child, an 
unconscious accomplice, would smile at the very airs 
that Chaverny had loved. 

38 A Father's Curse 

When he was eighteen months old the child's délicate 
health had never yet allowed of his being taken out of the 
house, but the faint pink that tinged the pallid hue of his 
cheek, as if the palest petal of a wild rose had been wafted 
there by the wind, promised life and health. Just as she 
was beginning to believe in the leech's prognostics, and 
was rejoicing in having been able, during the Count's ab- 
sence, to surround her son with the strictest care so as to 
hedge him in from ail danger, letters, written by her hus- 
band's secretary, announced his early return. 

One morning when the Countess, given up to the wild 
delight of a mother when she sees her first-born attempt 
his first steps, was playing with Etienne at games as inde- 
scribable as are the joys of memory, she suddenly heard the 
floor creak under a heavy foot. She had scarcely started 
to her feet with an involuntary impulse of surprise than she 
found herself face to face with the Count. She gave a cry ; 
but she tried to remedy this rash error by advancing to meet 
him, her brow submissively raised for a kiss. 

' Why did you not give me warning of your coming ? ' 
said she. 

*■ The réception,' interrupted the Count, ' would hâve 
been more cordial, but less genuine.' 

Then he caught sight of the child. Its frail appearance 
at first provoked him to a gesture of astonishment and fury ; 
but he controlled his rage and put on a smile. 

' I hâve brought you good news,' he went on. ' I am 
made governor of Champagne, and the King promises to 
create me a duke and a peer of the realm. Besides, we 
hâve come into a fortune ; that damned Huguenot de 
Chaverny is dead.' 

The Countess turned pale, and sank into a chair. She 
could guess the secret of the sinister glee expressed in her 
husband's face, and the sight of Etienne seemed to aggra- 
vate it. 

' Monsieur,' said she in a broken voice, ' you are well 

How the Mother Lived 39 

aware that I had long been attached to my cousin de 
Chaverny. You will account to God for the pain you 
are inflicting on me.' 

At thèse words the Count's eyes flashed fire; his lips 
trembled so that he could not speak, so mad was he with 
rage ; he flung his dagger on to the table with such violence 
that the métal rattled like a thunder-clap. 

' Listen to me,' said he in his deep voice, ' and mark 
what I say. I will never see nor hear the little monster 
you hâve in your arms, for he is your child and none of 
mine. Has he the least resemblance to me ? By God and 
ail his saints ! Hide him, I tell you, or else ' 

' Merciful Heaven ! ' cried the Countess, ' préserve us.' 

* Silence,' said the big man. ' If you do not want me to 
touch him, never let him come across my path.' 

' Well, then,' said the Countess, finding courage to with- 
stand her tyrant, ' swear to me that you will not try to kill 
him if you never see him anywhere. Can I trust to your 
honour as a gentleman ? ' 

' What is the meaning of this ? ' exclaimed the Count. 

' Well, kill us both, then,' cried she, falling on her knees 
and clasping the child in her arms. 

' Rise, Madame ; I pledge you my word as a gentleman 
to do nothing against the life of that misbegotten abortion, 
so long as he lives on the rocks that fringe the sea below 
the castle. I will give him the fisherman's house for a 
résidence and the strand for his domain. But woe to him 
if I ever find him outside those limits.' 

The Countess burst into bitter weeping. 

* But look at him ! ' said she. ' He is your son.' 
' Madame ! ' 

At this word the terrified mother carried away the child, 
whose heart was beating like that of a linnet taken from its 
nest by a country lad. 

Whether innocence has a charm which even the most 
hardened men cannot resist, or whether the Count blamed 

40 A Father's Curse 

himself for his violence and feared to crush a woman who 
was equally necessary for his pleasure and plans, by the 
time his wife returned his voice was softened as far as lay 
in his power. 

'Jeanne, my sweetheart,' said he, 'bear me no ill-feel- 
ing, give me your hand. It is impossible to know how to 
take you women. I bring you honours and wealth, pardie ! 
and you receive me like a miscreant falling among caitifFs. 
My government will necessitate long absences until I can 
exchange it for that of Normandy ; so at least give me 
cordial looks so long as I sojourn hère.' 

The Countess understood the purport of thèse words and 
their affected sweetness could not delude her. 

*■ I know my duty,' said she, with a tone of melancholy 
which her husband took for tenderness. 

The timid créature was too pure-minded, too lofty, to 
attempt, as some cleverer woman would hâve done, to gov- 
ern the Count by carefully regulated conduct, a sort of pros- 
titution which to a noble soûl seems despicable. She went 
slowly away to comfort her despair by walking with Etienne. 

' By God and his saints ! Shall I never be loved ? ' 
exclaimed the Count, discerning a tear in his wife's eye as 
she left him. 

Motherly feeling, under thèse constant threats of danger, 
acquired in Jeanne a strength of passion such as women 
throw into a guilty attachment. By a sort of magie, of 
which every mother's heart has the secret, and which was 
especially real between the Countess and her boy, she was 
able to make him understand the péril in which he lived, 
and taught him to dread his father's présence. The misér- 
able scène he had witnessed remained stamped on his mcm- 
ory and produced a sort of malady. At last he could 
forecast the Count's appearance with such certainty, that 
if one of those smiles, of which the dim promise is visible 
to a mother's eyes, had lighted up his features at the mo- 
ment when his half-developed sensés, sharpened by fear, 

How the Mother Lived 41 

became aware of his father's tread at some distance, his 
face would pucker; and the mother's ear was not so quick 
as her infant's instinct. As he grew older, this faculty, 
created by dread, increased so much that, like the red sav- 
ages of America, Etienne could distinguish his father's 
step and hear his voice at a great distance, and announce 
his approach. This sympathy, in her terror of her hus- 
band, at such an early âge, made the child doubly dear to 
the Countess ; and they were so closely united that, like 
two flowers growing on one stem, they bent to the same 
gale and revived under the same hopes. They lived but 
one life. 

When the Count departed Jeanne was expecting another 
child, that was born with much sufFering at the period de- 
manded by préjudice : a fine boy, which in a few months' 
time was so exactly like his father that the Count's aversion 
for the elder was still further increased. 

To save her darling the Countess consented to every 
plan devised by her husband to promote the happiness and 
fortunes of their second son. Etienne, promised a car- 
dinal's hat, was driven to the priesthood that Maximilien 
might inherit the estâtes and titles of Hérouville. At this 
cost the poor mother secured peace for the disowned son. 

When were two brothers more unlike than Etienne and 
Maximilien ? The younger from his birth loved noise, 
violent exercise, and warfare ; and the Count loved him as 
passionately as his wife loved Etienne. By a natural 
though tacit understanding each of them took chief care 
of the favourite. 

The Duke — for by this time Henri IV had rewarded the 
great services of the Lord of Hérouville — the Duke not 
wishing, as he said, to overtax his wife, chose for Maximi- 
lien's wet-nurse a sturdy peasant-wife of Beauvais, found 
by Beauvouloir. 

To Jeanne's great joy, he distrusted the mother's influ- 

42 A Father's Curse 

ence as much as her nursing, and determined to bring up 
his boy after his own mind. Maximilien imbibed a holy 
horror of books and letters; he learnt from his father the 
mechanical arts of military life, to ride on horseback from 
the earHest âge, to fire a gun, and use a dagger. As he grew 
up the Duke took the boy out hunting that he might acquire 
the brutal freedom of speech, rough manners, physical 
strength, and manly look and tone which in his opinion made 
the accomplished gentleman. At twelve years old the 
young nobleman was a very ill-licked lion's cub, at least 
as much to be feared as his father, by whose permission he 
might and did tyrannise over ail who came near him. 

Etienne lived in the house on the sea-shore given to him 
by his father, and arranged by the Duchess in such a way 
as to provide him with some of the comforts and pleasures 
to which he had a right. His mother spent the greater 
part of the day there. She and her boy wandered together 
over rocks and beaches ; she showed Etienne the délimita- 
tion of his little estate of sand, shells, seaweed, and pebbles, 
and her véhément alarm if he ever crossed the border line 
of the conceded territory, made him fully understand that 
death lay outside it. Etienne knew fear for his mother be- 
fore he trembled for himself ; and then while still young he 
felt a panic at the mère name of the Duc d'Hérouville, 
which bereft him of ail energy, and fiUed him with the 
helpless alarm of a girl who falls on her knees to beseech 
a sign. If he but saw the ominous giant in the distance, 
or only heard his voice, the dreadful impression that re- 
mained to him of the time when his father had cursed 
him froze his blood. And like a Laplander who pines to 
death when removed from his native snows, he made a 
happy home of his hut and the rocks ; if he crossed the 
boundary he was uneasy. 

The Duchess, perceiving that the poor child could find 
happiness nowhere but in a restricted and silent sphère, 
regretted less the doom imposed upon him ; she took ad- 

How the Mother Lived 43 

vantage of his compulsory vocation to prépare him for a 
noble life by occupying his loneliness in the pursuit of 
learning, and she sent for Pierre de Sebonde to dwell at 
the castle as preceptor to the future Cardinal d'Hérouville. 
Notwithstanding his being destined to the tonsure, Jeanne 
de Saint-Savin would not hâve his éducation to be exclu- 
sively priestly ; by her active interférence it was largely 
secular. Beauvouloir was desired to instruct Etienne in 
the mysteries of natural science ; and the Duchess, who 
superintended his studies to regulate them by the child's 
strength, amused him by teaching him Italian, and reveal- 
ing to him the poetic beauties of the language. 

While the Duke was leading Maximilien to attack the 
wild boar at the risk of being badly hurt, Jeanne was 
guiding Etienne through the Milky Way of Petrarca's son- 
nets, or the stupendous labyrinth of the Divina Coinmedia. 

In compensation for many infirmities, nature had gifted 
Etienne with so sweet a voice that the pleasure of hearing 
it was almost irrésistible ; his mother taught him music. 
Songs, tender and melancholy, to the accompaniment of 
the mandolin, were a favourite récréation promised by 
his mother as the reward of some task set by the Abbé de 
Sebonde. Etienne would listen to his mother with such 
passionate admiration as she had never before seen but in 
the eyes of Chaverny. 

The first time the poor soûl thus revived her girlhood's 
memories, she covered her boy's face with frenzied kisses. 
She blushed when Etienne asked her why she seemed to 
love him so much more than usual, and then she replied 
that she loved him more and more every hour. Thus, 
ère long, she found in the care needed for his soul's dis- 
cipline and his mental culture, the same joys as she had 
known in nursing and strengthening her boy's frame. 

Though mothers do not always grow up with their 
sons, the Duchess was one of those who bring into their 
motherhood the humble dévotion of love ; she could be 

44 A Father's Curse 

both fond and critical. She made it her pride to help 
Etienne to become in every respect superior to herself, and 
net to govern him; perhaps she felt herself so strong in 
her unfathomable affection that she had no fear of seeming 
small. Only hearts devoid of tenderness crave to domi- 
neer; true feeling loves abnégation which is the virtue 
of the strong. 

If Etienne did not at first understand some démonstra- 
tion, some abstruse text, or theorem, the poor mother, 
who would sit by him at his lessons, seemed to long to 
infuse into him an appréhension of ail knowledge, as of 
old at his faintest cry she had fed him from her breast. 
And then what a flush of joy crimsoned her cheeks when 
Etienne saw and took in the meaning of things ! She 
proved, as Pierre de Sebonde said, that a mother lives a 
double life, and that her fcelings include two existences. 

The Duchess thus enhanced the natural feelings that 
bind a son to his mother by the added tenderness of a 
resuscitated passion. Étienne's délicate health led her to 
continue for some years the care she had devoted to his 
infancy. She would dress him and put him to bed ; none 
but she ever combed and smoothed, curled and scented 
her boy's hair. This toilet was one long caress ; she 
kissed the beloved head as often as she touched it lightly 
with the comb. 

Just as a woman delights in being almost a mother to 
her lover, by rendering some homely service, so this 
mother in a way treated the child as a lover; she saw 
some faint likeness in him to the cousin she still loved 
beyond the tomb. Etienne was like the ghost of Georges 
seen in the remote heart of a magie mirror, and she would 
tell herself that there was more of the gentleman than of 
the priest in the boy. 

' If only some woman as loving as I am, would infuse 
into him the life of love, he might yet be very happy,' 
she often reflected. 

How the Mother Lived 45 

But the all-powerful interests which depended on Étienne's 
becoming a priest would corne to her mind, and she would 
kiss and leave her tears on the hair which the shears of the 
Church would presently eut away. 

In spite of the unjust conditions imposed by the Duke, 
in the perspective her eye could picture, piercing the thick 
darkness of the future, she never saw Etienne as a priest or 
a cardinal. His father's utter neglectfulness allowed her 
to préserve her poor boy as yet from taking orders. 

'■ There will always be time enough ! ' she would say. 

And without confessing the thought that lay buried in 
her heart, she trained Etienne in the fine manners of the 
Court ; she would hâve him as tender and gentle as Georges 
de Chaverny. Reduced to a small allowance by the Duke's 
ambitions, for he himself managed the family estâtes, spend- 
ing ail his revenues in ostentation, or on his retainers, she 
had adopted the plainest attire for her own wear, spending 
nothing on herself, that she might give her son velvet 
cloaks, high boots trimmed with lace, and doublets of rich 
materials, handsomely slashed. 

Thèse personal privations gave her the delight of the 
secret sacrifices we hide from those we love. It was a 
joy to her, as she embroidered a ruff*, to think of the day 
when she should see it on her boy's neck. She alone took 
charge of Etienne's clothes, linen, perfumes, and dress ; 
and she dressed herself only for him, for she loved to be 
thought charming by him. 

So much care, prompted by an ardour of affection which 
seemed to penetrate and vitalise her son's frame, had its 
reward. One day Beauvouloir, the good man who had 
made himself dear to this outcast heir by his teaching, and 
whose services were indeed known to the lad, the leech, 
whose anxious eye made the Duchess quake every time it 
rested on her fragile idol, pronounced that Etienne might 
enjoy a long life if no too violent émotions should overtax 
the délicate constitution. 

46 A Father's Curse 

Etienne was now sixteen. 

At this âge Etienne was not tall and he never became 
so ; but Georges de Chaverny had been of middle height. 
His skin, as clear and fine as a little girl's, showed the 
délicate network of blue veins beneath. His pallor was of 
the texture of porcelain. His light blue eyes were full of 
ineffable sweetness and seemed to crave protection of man 
and woman alike; the ingratiating softness of a supplicant 
beamed in his look, and began the charm which the melody 
of his voice achieved. 

Perfect modesty was stamped on every feature. Long 
chestnut hair, smooth and glossy, was parted over his brow 
and fell curling at the ends. But his cheeks were pale and 
worn, and his innocent brow, furrowed with the lines of 
congénital suffèring, was sad to see ; while his mouth, 
though pleasing and furnished with very white teeth, had 
the sort of fixed smile we see on the lips of the dying. 
His hands, as white as a woman's, were remarkably well- 

Much thought had given him the habit of holding his 
head down, like an etiolated plant, and this stoop suited his 
gênerai appearance ; it was like the last touch of grâce 
which a great artist gives to a portrait to enhance its mean- 
ing. You might hâve fancied that a girl's head had been 
placed on the frail body of a deformed man. 

The studious and poetical moods, rich in méditation, in 
which, like botanists, we scour the fields of the mind, the 
fruitful comparison of various human ideas, the high 
thoughts that are born of a perfect appréhension of works 
of genius, had become the inexhaustible and placid joys 
of this lonely and dreamy existence. 

P'iowers, those exquisite créations whose fate so much 
resembled his own, were the objects of his love. The 
Duchess, happy in seeing that her son's innocent pastimes 
were such as would préserve him from the rough contact 

How the Mother Lived 47 

of social life, which he could no more hâve endured than 
some pretty océan fish could hâve survived the touch of the 
Sun on the sands, had encouraged Étienne's tastes by giving 
him Spanish romanceros^ Italian ynotetù^ books, sonnets, 
and poetry. The Cardinal d'Hérouville's library had been 
handed over to Etienne; reading was to be the occupation 
of his life. 

Every morning the boy found his wilderness bright with 
pretty flowers of lovely hues and sweet scent ; thus his 
studies, which his délicate health would not allow him to 
continue for long at a time, and his play among the rocks, 
were relieved by endless méditations which would keep 
him sitting for hours as he looked at his innocent com- 
panions, the flowers, or crouching in the shade of a 
boulder, as he pondered on the mysteries of a seaweed, a 
moss, or a lichen. He would seek a poem in the cup of 
a fragrant flower as a bee might rifle it for honey. 

Often, indeed, he would simply admire, without arguing 
over his enjoyment of the délicate tracery of a richly 
coloured petal, the subtle texture of thèse cups of gold or 
azuré, green or purple, the exquisite and varied beauty of 
calyx and leaf, their smooth or velvety surface, that were 
rent — as his soûl would be rent — with the slightest 

At a later time, a thinker as well as a poet, he discerned 
the reason of thèse infinité manifestations of nature that 
was still the same; for, day by day, he advanced in the 
interprétation of the sacred Word that is written in every 
form of création. Thèse persistent and secret studies 
carried on in the occult world gave his life the half-torpid 
appearance of méditative genius. 

For long hours Etienne would bask on the sands, a poet 
unawares. And the sudden advent of a gilded insect, the 
reflection of the sunbeams from the sea, the twinkling play 
of the vast and liquid mirror of waters, a shell, a sea-spider 
— everything was an event and a delight to his guileless 

48 A Father's Curse 

soûl. To see his mother coming, to hear the soft rustle 
of her gown, to watch for her, kiss her, spealc to her, listen 
to her, ail caused him such acute excitement that some 
little delay or the least alarm would throw him into a high 

Ail his life was in his soûl; and to save the still frail 
and weakly body from being destroyed by the large émo- 
tions of that soûl, Etienne needed silence and kindness, 
peace in the world about him, and a woman's love. For 
the présent his mother could enwrap him in love and kind- 
ness; the rocks were silent; flowers and books beguiled 
his solitude ; and finally his little realm of sand and shells, 
of grass and seaw^eed, vi^ere to him a world perennially bright 
and new. 

Etienne got ail the benefit of this absolutely innocuous 
physical existence and this poetically noble, moral atmos- 
phère. A boy still in development, a man in mind, he was 
equally angelic from both points of view. By his mother's 
guidance, his studies had lifted his émotions to the sphère 
of intellect. Thus the activity of his mind worked itself 
out in the abstract world, far from the social life which, if 
it had not killed him, would hâve brought him sufFering. 
He lived in the soûl and in the mind. After apprehending 
human thought through reading, he rose to the great first 
principles that vitalise matter, he felt them in the air and 
read thoughts written in the sky. In short, he had at an 
early âge climbed to the ethereal heights where he could 
find fit nourishment for his soûl, — a nourishment rare but 
intoxicating, which inevitably predestined him to woe on 
the day when this accumulated treasure should clash with 
the other treasure which a sudden passion brings to the 

Though Jeanne de Saint-Savin sometimes trembled at 
the thought of that storm, she would comfort herself by a 
thought suggested by her son's gloomy vocation ; for the 
poor mother knew of no remedy for any evil but the 

How the Mother Lived 49 

acceptance of a lesser one. Her very joys were full of 

*■ He will be a cardinal,' she would reflect, *■ he will live 
for the arts and be their patron. He will love Art instead 
of loving a woman, and Art will never betray him.' 

Thus the happiness of this devoted mother was con- 
stantly qualified by the painful thoughts to which Étienne's 
strange position in his family gave rise. The two brothers 
had grown up without knowing each other; they had never 
met ; each knew not of his rival's existence. The Duchess 
had long hoped for some opportunity during her husband's 
absence when she might bring the two boys together and 
infuse her soûl into them both. She flattered herself that 
she might engage Maximilien's interest in Etienne by ex- 
plaining to the younger brother how much care and affec- 
tion he owed to the elder, in return for the renunciation 
that had been imposed on him, and to which, though com- 
pulsory, Etienne would be faithful. But this hope, long 
fondly cherished, had vanished. 

Far, now, from wishing to make the brothers acquainted, 
she dreaded a meeting between Etienne and Maximilien 
even more than between her boy and his father. Maxi- 
milien, who could believe in nothing good, would hâve 
feared lest Etienne should one day assert his forfeited 
rights, and would hâve thrown him into the sea with a 
stone tied to his neck. 

Never had a son so little respect for his mother. As 
soon as he could reason at ail he perceived how small was 
the Duke's regard for his wife. If the old Governor still 
preserved some form of politeness in his conduct to the 
Duchess, Maximilien, hardly ever restrained by his father, 
caused her a thousand griefs. 

Old Bertrand, too, took care that Maximilien should 

never see Etienne, whose very existence was carefully con- 

cealed from him. Ail the dependents on the château cord- 

ially hated the Marquis de Saint-Sever, the name borne 


50 A Father's Curse 

by Maximilien ; and ail who knew of the existence of the 
elder son regarded him an instrument of vengeance held in 
reserve by God. Thus Étienne's future prospects were 
indeed doubtful ; he might be persecuted by his brother. 

The poor Duchess had no relations to whom she could 
confide the life and interests of this beloved son; and 
might not Etienne blâme her, if, in the purple robe of 
Rome, he longed to be such a father as she had been a 
mother ? 

Thèse thoughts, and her saddened life, full of unconfessed 
griefs, were like a long sickness mitigated by gentle treat- 
ment. Her spirit craved for skilful kindness, and those 
about her were cruelly unpractised in gentleness. What 
mother's heart but must ache continually as she saw her 
eldest born, a man of heart and intellect, with the promise 
of true genius, despoiled of ail his rights, while the younger, 
a nature of coarse homespun, devoid even of military talent, 
was destined to wear the ducal coronet and perpetuate the 
race ? The House of Hérouville was sacrificing its true 
glory, The gentle Jeanne, incapable of curses, could only 
bless and weep ; but she often raised her eyes to Heaven 
to wonder at the reason for this strange doom. Her eyes 
would fin with tears as she reflected that, at her death, her 
son would in fact be an orphan and the object of a brother's 
brutality, who knew neither faith nor law. 

So much suppressed feeling, her first love never for- 
gotten, her many sorrows unrevealed, — for she concealed 
her worst griefs from her adored son, — her ever insecure 
joys and incessant anxieties, had told on her constitution, 
and sown the seeds of a décline which, far from amending, 
seemed aggravated day by day. At last a final blow 
developed consumption. The Duchess tried to point out 
to her husband the results of Maximilien's training, and 
was roughly repulsed ; she could do nothing to counteract 
the evil seed that was germinating in her son's heart. She 
now fell into a state of such évident debility that her illness 

How the Mother Lived 51 

required the promotion of Beauvouloir to the position of 
leech in the castle of Hérouville to the Governor of 
Normandy ; so the old bone-setter took up his résidence 

In those days such places were given to the learned who 
thus found leisure to carry out their studies, and the main- 
tenance needful to enable them to pursue them. Beauvouloir 
had for some time longed for this position, for his learning 
and his wealth had made him many and malignant enemies. 
Notwithstanding the protection of an illustrious family to 
whom he had done some service in a doubtful case, he had 
recently been dragged into a criminal trial ; and only the 
intervention of the Governor, at the Duchess's entreaty, 
had saved him from prosecution. The Duke had no 
cause to repent of the public protection he afforded to the 
leech ; Beauvouloir saved the Marquis de Saint-Sever from 
an illness so dangerous that any other doctor must hâve 
failed. But the Duchess's malady dated from too far back 
to be healed, especially vi^hen the w^ound was reopened 
daily in her own home. When it was évident that the end 
was approaching for this angel who had been prepared by 
so much sufFering for a happier life eternal, death was hast- 
ened by her gloomy forecast of the future. 

'What will become of my poor boy without me?' 
was the thought that constantly recurred like a bitter 

At last, when she was obliged to remain in bed, the 
Duchess faded rapidly to the tomb, for she was then parted 
from her boy who was exiled from her pillow by the agree- 
ment to which he owed his life. His grief was as great 
as his mother's. Inspired by the genius born of suppressed 
feeling, Etienne devised a highly mystical language by 
which to communicate with his mother. He studied the 
use of his voice as the most accomplished singer might 
hâve done, and came to sing in mournful accents under the 
Duchess's window whenever Beauvouloir signalled to him 

52 A Father's Curse 

that she was alone. Formerly, in his cradle, he had com- 
forted his mother by his intelligent smiles ; and now, a poet, 
he soothed her by the sweetest melody. 

' Those strains give me life ! ' the Duchess would exclaim 
to Beauvouloir, breathing in the air that wafted the sounds 
of Étienne's voice. 

At last the day came when the disowned son was 
plunged into enduring regrets. Many a time already had 
he discerned a mysterious connection between his feelings 
and the motions of the surges. The spirit of divination of 
the impulses of matter which he derived from his studies 
of the occult sciences, made this phenomenon more cogent 
to him than to many another. During this evening, when 
he was called to see his mother for the last time, the océan 
was stirred by movements which seemed to him passing 
strange. There was a convulsion of the waters as though 
the depths of the sea were in travail ; it swelled into mount- 
ing waves which died on the strand with dismal sounds 
like the yelping of dogs in torment. 

Etienne even said to himself: ' What is it that the sea 
wants of me ? It is tossing and complaining like a living 
thing. My mother has often told me that the océan was 
fearfully convulsed on the night when I was born. What is 
going to befall me ? ' 

This idea kept him standing at his cottage window, his 
eyes alternately fixed on the panes of the room where his 
mother lay and where a low light flickered, and on the 
waters which were still breaking. 

Suddenly Beauvouloir knocked gently at the door, opened 
it, and showed a face dark with appréhension. 

* Monseigneur,' said he, ' Madame la Duchesse is in 
such a sad state that she wishes to see you. Every précau- 
tion has been taken to forefend any evil that may await you 
in the castle ; but we must be very prudent ; and we shall 
be obliged to go through the Duke's room, the room you 
were born in.' 

How the Mother Lived ^^ 

At thèse words Etienne's eyes filled with tears, and he 
exclaimed : — 

' The océan was warning me ! ' 

He mechanically allowed himself to be conducted to the 
door of the turret, up which Bertrand had corne on the night 
that saw the birth of the disinherited child. The man was 
waiting there, lantern in hand. Etienne went up to the 
Cardinal d'Hérouville's great Hbrary, where he was obHged 
to wait with Beauvouloir, while Bertrand went to open the 
doors and reconnoitre as to whether the lad could go through 
without danger. 

The Duke did not wake. As they went forward with 
stealthy steps, Etienne and the leech could not hear a sound 
in ail the castle but the feeble moans of the dying woman. 
Thus the same circumstances as had attended the boy's birth 
recurred at his mother's death : the same storm, the same 
anguish, the same dread of waking the ruthless giant who 
was now sleeping soundly. To forefend ail risk, the hench- 
man took Etienne up in his arms and carried him through 
the formidable master's room, prepared to make an excuse 
of the Duchess's dying state, if he should be detected. 

Etienne was keenly alive to the fears confessed by thèse 
two faithful servants, but the agitation prepared him in 
some degree for the scène that met his eyes in this lordly 
room, where he now found himself for the first time since 
the day when his father's curse had banished him. On 
the huge bed, which happiness had never visited, he looked 
for the loved mother, and could hardly find her so cruelly 
was she emaciated. As white as the lace she wore, and 
with scarce a breath left, she collected her strength to 
take Etienne's hands, trying to give him her whole soûl in 
one long look, as, long since, Chaverny had bequeathed to 
her his whole life in one farewell. Beauvouloir and Bert- 
rand, the child and his mother, and the sleeping Duke were 
ail once more together. It was the same place, the same 
scène, the same actors ; but hère was funereal woe instead 

54 A Father's Curse 

of the joys of motherhood, the night of death instead of the 
morning of life. 

At this instant the hurricane, foretold by the loud rollers 
of the sea ever since sunset, broke loose. 

'Dear flower of my Hfe,' said Jeanne de Saint-Savin, 
kissing her son's forehead, ' you came into the world in the 
midst of a tempest, and in a tempest I am going out of it. 
Between those two hurricanes ail has been storm, save in 
the hours when I hâve been with you. And now my last 
joy is one with my last sorrow. Farewell, sweet image of 
two soûls at last to be united ! Farewell, my only, my 
perfect joy, my best-beloved ! ' 

' Ah, let me die with you ! ' said Etienne, who had lain 
down by his mother's side. 

' It would be the happier fate,' said she as the tears stole 
down her pale cheeks, for, as of old, she read the future. 
*■ No one saw him come ? ' she anxiously asked the two 

At this moment the Duke turned in his bed. They ail 

*■ There is a taint on even my latest joy,' cried the 
Duchess. ' Take him away ! take him away ! ' 

' Mother, I would rather see you a few minutes longer 
and die for it,' said the poor boy as he fainted away. 

At a sign from the Duchess, Bertrand took Etienne in 
his arms, and showing him once more to his mother, who 
embraced him with a last look, he stood ready to carry him 
away at a sign from the dying woman. 

*Love him well,' she said to the squire and the leech, 'for 
he has no protectors that I can see, save you and God.' 

Guided by the unerring instinct of a mother, she had 
discerned the deep pity felt by Bertrand for this eldest son 
of the powerful race for which he felt the sort of vénéra- 
tion that Jews dévote to the Holy City. As to Beauvou- 
loir, the compact between him and the Duchess was of 
ancient date. 

How the Mother Lived $$ 

The two true men, touched at seeing their mistress com- 
pelled to bequeath the noble youth to their care, promised 
by a solemn gesture to be the providence of their young 
lord, and the mother trusted them implicitly. 

The Duchess died in the morning, a few hours later ; 
she was mourned by her remaining servants, who pro- 
nounced her only funeral panegyric, saying that she was 
' a gracious dame come down from Paradise.' 

Etienne sank into the deepest, the most unbroken grief, 
— a silent grief. He no longer wandered on the shore ; 
he had no heart to read or sing. He would sit the whole 
day half hidden in a rocky nook, indiffèrent to the severity 
of the weather, motionless, as if glued to the granité like 
one of the lichens that grew on it. He rarely wept, but 
was absorbed in a single thought, as deep, as infinité as 
the océan ; and, like the océan, that thought would assume 
a thousand aspects, would be dreadful, tempestuous, or 
calm. This was something more than sorrow ; it was a 
new life, an inévitable fate that had fallen on this noble 
being who would never smile again. There are griefs 
which, like blood dropped into running water, tinge the 
stream but for a time ; the flow renews it and restores its 
purity. But with Etienne the spring was tainted ; each 
wave of time brought the same embittered draught. 

Bertrand, in his advancing years, had remained steward 
of the stables and stud, so as to retain a post of some 
authority in the household. His résidence was not far 
from the cottage where Etienne lived in retirement, so 
he was enabled to watch over him with the unfailing con- 
stancy and wily simplicity of affection which are charac- 
teristic of old soldiers. To talk to this poor boy he set 
aside ail his roughness ; he would go gently in wet weather 
and rouse him from his sorrowful dreaming, to come home 
with him. He made it his pride to fill the Duchess's 
place, at any rate so far as that her son should be equally 

56 A Father's Curse 

well cared for, if not equally loved. This compassion 
was indeed akin to tenderness. Etienne accepted his 
retainer's dévotions without complaint or résistance ; but 
the ties between the outcast child and other human beings 
were too much broken for any ardent affection to find 
birth in his heart. He allowed himself to be protected, 
mechanically, as it were, for he had become a sort of 
hybrid créature between man and a plant, or perhaps be- 
tween man and God. To what can a being be likened, 
to whom social law and the false sentiments of the world 
were unknown, who, while obeying the instincts of his 
heart, was yet absolutely innocent ? 

Still, in spite of his deep melancholy, he presently felt 
the need for loving. He wanted another mother, another 
soûl one with his ; but, eut off as he was from ail civilisa- 
tion by a wall of brass, it was unlikely that he should 
meet any other being so flowerlike as himself. By dint 
of seeking for a second self to whom he might confide 
his thoughts, whose life he might make his own, he fell 
into sympathy with the océan. The sea became to him 
a living and thinking being. Being constantly familiar 
with that immense création, whose occult wonders are 
so strangely unlike those of the land, he discovered the 
solution of many mysteries. Intimate from his infancy 
with the measureless waste of waters, sea and sky told him 
wondrous taies of poesy. 

To him variety was ceaseless in that vast expanse, ap- 
parently so monotonous. Like ail men in whom the soûl 
overmasters the body, he had a keen eye, and could dis- 
cern at immense distances and with the greatest ease, 
without fatigue, the most fugitive effects of light, the most 
transient play of the waves. Even in a perfect calm he 
found endless variety of hue in the sea, which, like a 
woman's countenance, had its expression, smiles, fancies, 
whims : hère green and gloomy, there radiantly blue, its 
gleaming streaks merging in the doubtful brightness of 

How the Mother Lived 57 

the horizon, or, again, swelling with soft puises under 
golden clouds. He witnessed magnificent spectacles of 
glorious display at sunset, when the day-star shed its crim- 
son glow over the waves like a mantle of splendour. 

To him the sea at mid-day was cheerful, lively, spark- 
ling, when its ripples reflected the sunshine from their 
myriad dazzling facets ; and spoke to him of fathomless 
melancholy, making him weep, when in a mood of calm 
and sorrowful résignation, it repeated a cloud-Iaden sky. 
He had mastered the wordless speech of this stupendous 
création. Its ebb and flow were like musical breathing; 
each sob expressed a feeling, he understood its deepest 
meaning. No mariner, no weather prophet, could foretell 
more exactly than he the least of Ocean's rages, the faintest 
change of its surface. By the way the surf died on the 
beach he could foresee a storm or a squall, and read the 
distant swell and the force of the tide. 

When night spread a veil over the sky, he still saw the 
sea under the twilight and still could hold converse with it; 
he lived in its teeming life, he felt the tempest in his soûl 
when it was wroth ; he drank in its anger in the piping of 
the storm, and rushed with the huge breakers that dashed 
in dripping fringes over the boulders ; he then felt himself 
as terrible and as valiant as the waves, gathering himself up 
as they did with a tremendous backward sweep ; he too 
could be darkly silent, and imitate its sudden fits of forbear- 
ance. In short, he had wedded the sea, it was his confi- 
dant and his love. In the morning, when he came out on 
his rocks, as he wandered over the smooth, glistening sand, 
he could read the mood of the océan at a glance ; he saw 
its scenery, and seemed to hover over the broad face of the 
waters like an angel flown down from heaven. If it lay 
under shifting, elfin, white mists as délicate as the veil 
over a bride's brow, he would watch their swaying motion 
with lover-like delight, as much fascinated by finding the 
sea thus coquetting like a woman aroused but still half 

58 A Father's Curse 

asleep, as a husband can be to see his bride beautiful with 

His mind, thus united to this great divine mind, com- 
forted him in his loneliness, and the thousand fancies of his 
brain had peopled his strip of wilderness with sublime 
images. He had at last read in the motions of the sea ail 
its close connection with the mechanism of the skv, and 
grasped the harmonious unity of nature, from the blade of 
grass to the shooting stars, which, like seeds driven by the 
wind, try to find a resting place in the ether. 

Thus, as pure as an angel, untainted bv the thoughts 
that debase men, and as guileless as a child, he lived like a 
seaweed, like a flower, expanding only with the treasures 
of a poetical imagination, of a divine knowledge which he 
alone gauged in its full extent. It was indeed a singular 
mixture of two orders of création ! Sometimes he was 
uplifted to God by prayer ; and sometimes came down 
again, humble and resigned to the tranquil enjovment of 
an animal. To him the stars were the flowers of the night, 
the Sun was as a father, the birds were his comrades. 

He saw his mother's soûl in ail things ; he often saw her 
in the clouds ; he spoke to her and held communion with 
her in celestial visions ; on certain days he could hear her 
voice, see her smile ; in fact there were times when he had 
not lost her. God seemed to hâve endowed him with the 
powers of the ancient recluses, to hâve given him exquisite 
internai sensés which could pierce to the heart of things. 
Some amazing mental power enabled him to see further 
than other men into the secrets of the immortals. His 
grief and sufFering were as bonds that linked him to the 
world of spirits, and he fared forth into it, aroused by his 
love, to seek his mother, thus by a sublime similarity of 
ecstasy repeating the enterprise of Orpheus. He would pro- 
ject himself into the future, or into the heavens, just as he 
would fly from his rock from one margin of the horizon to 
the other. 

How the Mother Lived 59 

And often when he lay crouching in some deep cave, 
fantastically wrought in the granité clifF, with an entrante 
as small as a burrow, where a softened light prevailed as 
the warm sunbeams peered in through some cranny hung 
with dainty seaside mosses, a perfect sea-bird's nest, — often 
he would suddenly fall asleep. The sun, his master, would 
remind him of his slumbers by marking off the hours dur- 
ing which he had remained oblivious of the scène, — the 
sea, the golden sands, and the shelly shore. Then, under 
a light as glorious as that of heaven, he saw the mighty 
cities of which his books had told him ; he wandered about 
gazing with surprise, but without envy, at courts and kings, 
battles, men, and buildings. Thèse dreams in broad day- 
light, made him ever fonder of his gentle flowers, his clouds, 
his sun, his noble granité cliffs. An angel, as it seemed, to 
attach him more closely to his solitary life, revealed to him 
the gulfs of the world of sin, and the dreadful jars of civil- 
ised life. He felt that his soûl would be rent in the wild 
océan of mankind and perish, crushed like a pearl which, 
in the royal progress of a princess, falls from her coronet 
into the muddy street. 



In 1617, twenty years or more after the terrible night 
when Etienne was brought into the world, the Duc d'Hé- 
rouville, then seventy-six years old, broken and half dead, 
was sitting at sunset in a vast arm-chair by the pointed win- 
dow of his bedroom, in the very spot where the Countess, 
by the bugle strain wasted in the air, had vainly called for 
help on man and God. 

He might hâve been a man disinterred from the grave. 
His powerful face, bereft of its sinister look by âge and 
sufFering, vi^as of a pallor almost matching the long locks 
of white hair that fell round his bald head with its parch- 
ment skull. Warlike fanaticism still gleamed in his tawny 
eyes, though tempered by a more religious feeling. Dévo- 
tion had, indeed, lent a monastic cast to the countenance 
that had of yore been so stern, and it now wore a tinge 
which softened its expression. The glow of sunset shed 
a tender red light on the still vigorous features ; and the 
broken frame wrapped in a brown gown, by its heavy atti- 
tude and the absence of any movement, gave the finishing 
touch to the picture of monotonous solitude and dreadful 
repose in a man formerly so fuU of life and hatred and 

' Enough ! ' said he to his chaplain. 

The vénérable old man was reading the Gospel, standing 
in a respectful attitude before his master. The Duke, like 
the old lions in a beast-garden who are majcstic even in 
their décrépitude, turned to another grey-haired man, hold- 


How the Son Died 6i 

ing out a lean arm sprinkled with hairs and sinewy still, 
though no longer strong. 

' Now it is your turn, bone-setter,* said he. 'See how 
we stand to-day.' 

' Ail is well with you, Monseigneur ; the fever is past. 
You will live many a long year yet.' 

' I would I could see Maximilien hère,' replied the Duke, 
with a smile of satisfaction. ' My fine boy ! He is in 
command now of a company of arquebusiers under the 
King. The Maréchal d'Ancre has been good to the lad, 
and our gracious Oueen Marie is trying to find a worthy 
match for him now that he has been created Duc de 
Nivron. So my name will be worthily perpetuated. The 
boy achieved wonders of valour at the assault ' 

At this moment Bertrand came in, holding a letter in his 

'■ What is this ? ' cried the old lord, hastily. 

' A missive brought by a courier from the King,' replied 
the squire. 

'The King, and not the Queen Mother?' cried the 
Duke. 'What then is happening? Are the Huguenots 
in arms again ? By God and ail his saints ! ' he added, draw- 
ing himself up and looking round at the three old men, 
'I will hâve out my armed men again, and with Maximilien 
at my side, Normandy ' 

' Sit down again, dear my lord,' said the leech, uneasy at 
seeing the Duke give way to an outburst so dangerous to a 
sick man. 

' Read it. Maître Corbineau,' said the Duke, giving the 
letter to the confessor. 

The four figures made a picture full of lessons to the 
human race. The squire, the priest, and the leech, white 
with âge, ail three standing in front of their lord as he sat 
in his chair, and stealing timid looks at each other, were ail 
possessed by one of those ideas which come upon a man 
within an inch of the grave. In the strong light of the 

62 A Father's Curse 

setting Sun, they formed a group of the highest melancholy 
and strong in contrasts. And the gloomy, solemn room, 
where for five and twenty years nothing had been altered, 
was a fit setting for the romantic picture full of burnt-out 
passions, shadowed by death, full of religion. 

' " The Maréchal d'Ancre has been executed on the 

pont du Louvre by the King's orders; and then " 

O God ! ' 

' Go on,' said the Duke. 

'Monseigneur le Duc de Nivron * 

' Well ? ' 

' Is dead ! ' 

The Duke's head fell on his breast, he sighed deeply and 
spoke not. At this word and this sigh the three old men 
looked at each other. It was as though the noble and 
wealthy House of Hérouville were disappearing before 
their eyes like a foundering vessel. 

'The Master above us,' the Duke added, with a fierce 
glance heavenwards, ' is but ungrateful to me. He forgets 
the gallant deeds I hâve done for his holy cause.' 

' God is avenged,' said the priest, solemnly. 

' Take this man to the dungeon ! ' exclaimed the 

'You can silence me more easily than you can stifle 
your conscience.' 

The Duc d'Hérouville was thinking. 

' My house is extinct ! My name will die! — I must 
hâve a son ! ' he exclaimed after a long pause. 

Frightful as was his expression of despair, the leech could 
not forbear from smiling. 

At that moment a song as clear as the evening air, as 
pure as the sky, as simple as the hue of océan, rose above 
the murmur of the waves as if to charm nature. The sad- 
ness of the voice, the melody of the strain, fell like perfume 
on the spirit, The voice came up in gusts, filled the air, 
and shed balm on every sorrow, or rather soothed them by 

How the Son Died 6^ 

giving them utterance. The song mingled so perfectly 
with the Sound of the waves that it seemed to rise from 
the bosom of the waters. 

To thèse old men it was sweeter than the tenderest 
vows of love could hâve been to a girl. It conveyed so 
much religious hope that it echoed in the heart Hke a voice 
coming from heaven. 

' What is that ? ' asked the Duke. 

' The nightingale singing,' replied Bertrand. ' Ail is net 
lest either for him or for us.' 

' What is it that you call a nightingale ? ' 

* It is the name we hâve given to your eldest son, Mon- 
seigneur, ' replied Bertrand. 

* My son ! ' cried the old Duke. ' Then I hâve still a 
son, something to bear my name and perpetuate it?' 

He rose to his feet and began to pace the room, now 
slowly, now in haste; then by a commanding gesture he 
dismissed his attendants, retaining the priest. 

On the following morning the Duke, leaning on his old 
squire, made his way along the strand and over the rocks 
to find the son he once had cursed; he saw him from afar, 
crouching in a cleft in the granité, basking idly in the sun, 
his head resting on a tuft of fine grass, his feet curled up in 
a graceful altitude; Etienne suggested a swallow that has 
alighted to rest. 

As soon as the stately old man made his appearance on 
the shore, and the sound of his steps, deadened by the sand, 
was audible, mingling with the dash of the waves, Etienne 
looked round, and with the cry of a startled bird vanished 
into the rock itself, like a mouse that bolts so swiftly into 
its hole that we doubt whether it was there. 

'Eh ! By God and his saints ! where has he hidden 
himself?' exclaimed the Duke, as he reached the projec- 
tion under which his son had been crouching. 

* In there,' said Bertrand, pointing to a narrow rift 

64 A Father's Curse 

where the stone was worn and polished by the friction of 
high tides. 

' Etienne, my beloved son ! ' the old man cried. 

But the disowned son made no reply. 

During a great part of the morning, the old Duke be- 
sought and threatened, entreated and scolded by turns, but 
without obtaining an answer. Now and again he was 
silent, applying his ear to the opening, but ail his old ears 
could hear was the deep throbbing of Étienne's heart, of 
which the wild beating was echoed by the cavern. 

' He at any rate is alive ! ' said the old father in a heart- 
rending tone. 

By noon, in sheer despair, he was a suppliant. 

' Etienne,' he said, * my beloved Etienne, God has 
punished me for misprizing you ! He has snatched your 
brother from me. You are now my one and only child. 
I love you better than myself. I recognize my errors : I 
know that it is my blood that flows in your veins with 
your mother's, and that her misery was of my making. 
Come to me; I will try to make you forget your wrongs 
by loving you for ail I hâve lost. Etienne, you are Duc 
de Nivron, and after me you will be Duc d'Hérouville, 
Peer of France, Knight of the French orders and of the 
Golden Fleece, captain of a hundred men of the guard, 
Grand Bailli of Bessin, Governor and Vice-regent of Nor- 
mandy, lord of twenty-seven estâtes including sixty-nine 
steeples, and Marquis de Saint-Sever. You may marry a 
prince's daughter. You will be the head of the House of 
Hérouville. Do you want to make me die of grief? 
Come to me, come or I stay hère on my knees, in front of 
your hiding-place, till I sec you. Your old father implores 
you, and humbles himself before his son as if he were pray- 
ing to God himself! ' 

The disowned son did not understand this speech brist- 
ling with ideas and vanities of which he knew nothing, he 
only was aware of a revival in his mind of impressions of 

How the Son Died 6^ 

invincible terror. He remained speechless in agonies of 

Tovvards evening the old man, having exhausted every 
resource of language, every form of adjuration, every ex- 
pression of repentance, was seized by a sort of religious 
contrition. He knelt down on the sand and made a vow. 

' I swear to build a chapel to Saint John and Saint 
Stephen, the patron saints of my wife and son, and to 
endow a hundred masses to the Virgin, if God and the 
saints will give me the love of Monsieur le Duc de Nivron, 
my son hère présent ! ' 

There he remained on his knees, in deep humiliation, 
his hands clasped in prayer. But his child not yet coming 
forth to him, the hope of his race, tears poured from his 
long-dry eyes and rolled down his withered cheeks. 

Just then Etienne, hearing ail silent, crept out of the rift 
from his grotto like a snake longing for the sunshine ; he 
saw the tears of the broken-hearted old man, recognised a 
genuine sorrow, took his father's hand and kissed it, saying 
in angelic accents : — 

' O Mother, forgive ! ' 

In the fever of gladness the Governor of Normandy 
took his frail heir in his arms, the lad trembling like a girl 
carried ofF by force ; and feeling him quake he tried to 
reassure him, kissing him vi'ith as much gentleness as he 
might hâve used in handling a flovi^er, and finding for him 
such sweet w^ords as he had never been w^ont to speak. 

' 'Fore God, but you are like my poor Jeanne ! Dear 
child,' said he, ' tell me ail you wish. I w^ill give you your 
heart's désire. Be strong, be u^ell ! I will teach you to ride 
on a jennet as mild and gentle as yourself. No one shall 
contradict you. By God and ail his saints ! everything 
shall bend to you like reeds before the wind. I give you 
unlimited power hère. I myself will obey you as the head 
of the family.' 

The father led his son into the state bedroom where his 

66 A Father's Curse 

mother had ended her sad life. Etienne went at once to 
lean against the window where life had begun for him, 
whence his mother had been in the habit of signalling to 
him when the persecutor was absent, who now, he knew 
not wherefore, had become his slave, and seemed as one of 
those gigantic beings placed at the command of a young 
prince by a fairy. That fairy was the feudal feeling. 

On seeing once more this gloomy room where his eyes 
had first learned to contemplate the océan, tears rose to the 
youth's eyes ; the memories of his long sorrows mingling 
with the dear remembrance of the joys he had known in 
the only affection that had ever been granted to him — his 
mother's love — ail fell on his heart at once, and seemed to 
fin it with a poem that was both terrible and beautiful. 
The émotions of this lad, accustomed to dwell absorbed in 
ecstasy, as others are accustomed to give themselves up to 
worldly excitement, had no resemblance to the feelings of 
ordinary humanity. 

' Will he live ? ' asked the old man, amazed at his son's 
fragility ; he caught himself holding his breath as he bent 
over him. 

' I can live nowhere but hère,' replied Etienne, simply, 
having heard him. 

' Then this room is yours, my child.' 

* What is happening ? ' asked young d'Hérouville, as he 
heard ail the dwellers in the castle precincts collecting in the 
guard-room, whither the Duke had summoned them to pré- 
sent his son to them, never doubting of the resuit. 

' Come,' was his father's reply, taking him by the hand 
and leading him into the great hall. 

At that period a duke and peer of such estate as the Duc 
d'Hérouville, having charges and governments, led the life 
of a sovereign prince ; the younger members of the family 
were fain to serve under him ; he had a household with its 
officers ; the first lieutenant of his company of guards was 
to him what the aides-de-camp now are to a field marshal. 

How the Son Died 67 

Only a few years later the Cardinal de Richelieu main- 
tained a body-guard. Several of the princes who were 
allied to the royal family — the Guises, the Condés, the 
Nevers, the Vendômes — were attended by pages of the 
best familles, a survival of the extinct chivalry. His 
vast fortune, and the antiquity of the Norman to which he 
belonged, as indicated by his name (her-us v'tlla^ the chief's 
house), had enabled the Duc d'Hérouville to display no less 
magnificence than others who were his inferiors, such as 
the Épernons, the Luynes, the Balagnys, the d'Os, the 
Zamets, who as yet were but parvenus and nevertheless 
lived like princes. 

The Duke seated himself on a chair, under a soîium or 
carved wooden canopy, and raised on a few steps, a sort of 
throne whence in some provinces certain lords of the soil 
still pronounced sentence in their jurisdiction, a relie of 
feudal customs which finally ceased under Richelieu's rule. 
This sort of judge's bench, resembling the wardens' seats 
in a church, are now rare objects of curiosity. 

When Etienne found himself seated hère by his father's 
side, he shuddered at finding him the centre of ail eyes. 

' Do net tremble,' said the Duke, bending his bald head 
down to his son's ear, ' for ail thèse are our own people.' 

Through the gloom partly lighted by the setting sun, 
whose beams reddened the windows of the hall, Etienne 
could see the bailie, the captains and lieutenants at arms, 
followed by some of their men, the squires, the almoner, 
the secretaries, the leech, the house-steward, the ushers, the 
land-steward, the huntsmen and gamekeepers, the retainers, 
and the footmen. Although this crowd stood in a respect- 
ful attitude, caused by the terror the old Duke had inspired 
even in the most important personages who dwelt under 
his command and in his province, there was a dull murmur 
ofwondering curiosity. This whisper weighed on Etienne's 
heart; this was the first time that he had experienced the 
efFect of the heavy atmosphère breathed in a room full of 

68 A Father's Curse 

people, and his sensés, accustomed to the pure and whole- 
some sea air, were nauseated with a suddenness that showed 
the delicacy of his organisation. A terrible palpitation, 
caused by some structural defect of the heart, shook him 
with its véhément throbs, when his father, determined to 
appear as a majestic old lion, spoke the following words 
in solemn tones : — 

*• My good friends, this is my son Etienne, my eldest 
born, my heir presumptive, the Duc de Nivron, on whom 
the King will doubtless devolve the offices of his brother 
now dead. I hâve brought him before you that you may 
acknowledge him and obey him as you would me. And I 
warn you that if any one among you, or any man in the 
province over which I rule, shall displease the young Duke 
or cross his will in anything, it were better for that man, if 
it should corne to my ears, that he had never been born. 
You hâve heard. Go your ways to your business, and 
God be with you. 

' Maximilien d'Hérouville will be buried hère, as soon 
as his body has been brought hither. In eight days the 
whole household will go into mourning. Later we will do 
honour to the heir, my son Etienne.' 

'Long live Monseigneur! Long live the Hérouville!* 
was shouted in voices that made the walls ring. 

The footmen brought torches to light up the hall. 

Thèse acclamations, the glare of light, the émotions 
caused by his father's speech, added to what he already 
felt, made Etienne turn faint. He fell back on the seat, 
his girlish hand grasped in his father's broad palm. 

As the Duke, who had signed to the lieutenant of his 
Company to corne doser, was saying : ' I am glad. Baron 
d'Artagnon, to be able to repair my loss ; — come and speak 
to my son,' he felt an ice-cold hand in his own, looked round 
at the Duc de Nivron, and, thinking him dead, gave a cry of 
terror that startled ail présent. 

Beauvouloir opened the barrier in front of the dais, took 

How the Son Died 69 

the lad up in his arms, and carried him out, saying to his 
master : — 

' You might hâve killed him by not preparing him for 
this cérémonial,' 

' Will he not live to hâve a son, then ? ' cried the Duke, 
who had followed Beauvouloir into the state bedroom where 
the leech laid the young heir on the bed. 

' Well, Maître ? ' asked the father, anxiously. 

' It will be nothing,' replied the old man, pointing to 
Etienne, now reviving under the influence of a cordial 
administered on a lump of sugar, at that time a nevs^ and 
precious substance sold for its weight in gold. 

' Hère, you old rascal,' said the Duke, offering Beauvou- 
loir his purse; ' care for him as for a king's son. If he 
should die in your hands I vi^ould cook you myself on a 
gridiron ' 

' If vou persist in being so violent the Duc de Nivron 
will die by your act,' said the leech, bluntly. ' Leave him 
and he will sleep.' 

' Good-night, my best beloved,' said the old man, kissing 
his son's forehead. 

' Good-night, father,' replied the youth, and his voice 
gave the Duke a thrill as he heard him address him for the 
fîrst time by the name of father. 

The Duke took Beauvouloir by the arm and led him 
into the next room, where he cornered him in a window- 
bay, saying : — 

' Now, old rascal, we will hâve it out.' 

This speech, the Duke's favourite jest, made the leech 
smile ; he had long since given up bone-setting. 

' That I owe you no grudge you know full well. Twice 
you brought my poor wife through her troubles, you cured 
my son Maximilien of a sickness ; in short, you are 
one of the family. — Poor boy ! I will avenge him ; I will 
answer for the man who killed him ! — The whole future 
of the House of Hérouville is in your hands. Now we 

70 A Father's Curse 

must marry this boy without delay. You alone know 
whether there is in that poor changeling the stuff of 
which more Hérouvilles may be made. Do you hear 
me ? What do you think ? ' 

' The life he has led on the sea-shore has been so chaste 
and pure that nature is sturdier in him than it would hâve 
been if he had lived in your world. But so frail a body 
is always the slave of the soûl. Monseigneur Etienne must 
sélect his own wife, for in him ail will be the work of nat- 
ure, not the outcome of your will. He will love guilelessly, 
and by the prompting of his own heart achieve what you 
want him to do for your name. Marry your son to a lady 
of rank who is like a mare and he will flee to hide in the 
rocks. Nay, more ; if a sudden alarm would kill him to 
a certainty, I believe that sudden joy would be equally fatal. 
To avert disaster I am of opinion that Etienne must be left 
to find his own way, at his leisure, in the paths of love. 
Listen to me, Monseigneur : though you are a great and 
puissant prince, you know nothing about thèse matters. 
Grant me your entire and unlimited confidence and you 
shall hâve a grandson.' 

' If I hâve a grandson, by whatever conjuring trick you 
please, I will get you a patent of nobility. Yes, hard as 
it may be, from an old rascal you shall be turned into a 
gentleman, you shall be Beauvouloir Baron de Forcalier. 
Work it by green or dry, by black magie or white, by 
masses in church or a meeting at a witches' Sabbath, so 
long I hâve a maie descendant ail will be well.' 

' I know of a wizard's meeting that might spoil every- 
thing, and that. Monseigneur, is you yourself. I know 
you. To-day you wish for a maie grandchild at any cost ; 
to-morrow you will insist on arranging the conditions of 
the bargain ; you will torment your son ' 

' God forbid ! ' 

' Well then, set out for the Court where the Marshal's 
death and the King's émancipation must hâve turned every- 

How the Son Died 71 

thing upside down, and where you must hâve some busi- 
ness to attend to, were it only to get the Marshal's bâton 
which vvas promised to you. Leave Monseigneur Etienne 
to me. But pledge me your honour as a gentleman to 
approve whatever I do.' 

The Duke grasped the old man's hand in token of entire 
confidence and retired to his room. 

When the days of a high and puissant noble are in the 
balance, the leech is an important person in the household, 
so we need not be surprised at finding an old bone-setter 
on such famiiiar terms with the Duc d'Hérouville. Irre- 
spective of the illegitimate relationship which tied him 
through marriage to this lordly house, and which told in 
his favour, the learned leech had so often shown his good 
sensé to the Duke's advantage, that he was one of his 
favourite advisers. Beauvouloir was the Coyctier of this 
Louis IX. 

Still, valuable as was his scientific knowledge, the physi- 
cian had not so much influence as the old feudal traditions 
over the Governor of Normandy, still fired with the fero- 
cious passions of religious war. And the faithful servant 
had understood that the préjudices of a noble would inter- 
fère with the father's hopes. Being, in truth, a very 
learned leech, Beauvouloir felt that for a being so delicately 
organised as Etienne, marriage ought to be gentle and 
graduai inspiration which might infuse fresh vigour into 
him by firing him with the glow of love. As he had said, to 
insist on any particular woman would be to kill the youth. 
Above ail things to be avoided was frightening the young 
recluse by the idea of marriage, of which he knew nothing, 
or by letting him see the end his father had in view. This 
unconscious poet could know none but such a noble 
passion as Petrarch's for Laura, as Dante's for Béatrice. 
Like his mother he was ail pure love, ail soûl; he must 
hâve the opportunity of loving placed in his way, and then 

72 A Father's Curse 

ail must be left to the event. It would not do to com- 
mand him ; an order would seal the springs of life. 

Master Antoine Beauvouloir had a child, a daughter, 
brought up in a way that made her the wife for Etienne. 
It had been so impossible to foresee the occurrences by 
which this youth, destined by his father to be a cardinal, had 
become heir presumptive to the dukedom of Hérouville, that 
Beauvouloir had never observed the similarity of circum- 
stances in the lives of Etienne and Gabrielle. It was a 
sudden idea suggested rather by his affection for the two 
children than by any ambition. 

In spite of his skill his wife had died in giving birth to 
this daughter, who was so délicate that he feared the 
mother had bequeathed to her child the germs of early 
death. Beauvouloir adored his Gabrielle as ail old men 
adore an only child. His skill and ceaseless care lent the 
fragile créature an artificial life; for he cherished her as a 
gardener nurses an exotic plant. He had kept her from ail 
eyes on his little estate of Forcalier, where she was sheltered 
from the troubles of the times by the universal good-will 
felt for a man to whom every one about him owed some 
debt of kindness, while his scientific power commanded a 
sort of awed respect. By attaching himself to the Hérou- 
ville household, he had increased the immunities he enjoyed 
in the province, and had balked the hostilities of his 
enemies by his important position as médical attendant to 
the Governor : but on coming to the castle he had taken 
care not to bring with him the flower he kept hidden at 
Forcalier, — an estate of more value from the lands it com- 
prised than from the mansion that stood on it, and on 
which he founded his hopes of settling his daughter in a 
manner suited to his views for her. 

When promising the Duke a grandson, and exacting his 
promise to approve of any measure, he suddenly thought 
of Gabrielle, the gentle girl whose mother had been as 
completely forgotten by the Duke as his son Etienne had 

How the Son Died 73 

been. He waited till his mastcr had left to put his plan 
into practice, being aware that, if it should corne to the 
Duke's knowledge, the enormous difficulties which a 
favourable issue would nullify, would by anticipation prove 

Beauvouloir's house faced the south, standing on the 
slope of one of the pleasant hills that enclose the vales of 
Normandy; a thick wood sheltered it on the north; high 
walls and clipped hedges and deep ditches enclosed in im- 
pénétrable seclusion. The garden was laid out in terraces 
down to the river which watered the meadows at the 
bottom, where a high bank between shrubs made a natural 
dyke. Thèse hedges screened a covered walk, winding 
with the windings of the stream, and as deeply buried as a 
forest path in willows, beeches, and oaks. 

From the house to this embankment stretched the rich 
verdure native to the district, a slope shaded by a grove of 
foreign trees u^hose mingled hues made a richly varied 
background of colour : hère the silvery tones of a pine 
stood out against the darker green of elms; there a slim 
poplar lifted its waving spire in front of a group of old 
oaksj further down weeping-willows drooped in pale tresses 
between burly walnut-trees. This copse now afForded 
shade at ail times on the way down from the house to the 
river path. 

In front of the house a terrace walk spread a yellow 
band of gravel, and it was shadowed by a wooden verandah 
overgrown with creepers, which, by the month of May, 
were covered with blossoms up to the first-floor windows. 

The garden, though not extensive, was made to seem se 
by the way it was planned ; and points of view, cleverly 
contrived from the knolls, overlooked the valley where the 
eye might wander at will. Thus, as instinctive fancy led 
her, Gabrielle could either retire into the solitude of a 
sheltered spot where nothing was to be seen but the close 
grass, and the blue sky between the tree-tops, or gaze far 

74 A Father's Curse 

into the distance, her eye following the shading of green 
hills from the vivid hue of the foreground to the pure 
depths of the horizon, where they faded into the blue océan 
of air, or mingled with the mountain clouds that floated 
over them. 

Tended by her grandmother, and served by her foster- 
mother, Gabrielle Beauvouloir never left her modest home 
but to go to the church of which the belfry crowned the 
hill, and whither she was always escorted by her grand- 
mother, her nurse, and her father's man-servant. Thus 
she had grown up to the âge of seventeen in the sweet 
ignorance which the scarcity of books made possible, with- 
out its seeming extraordinary in a time when a woman of 
learning was a rare phenomenon. Her home had been 
like a convent, with added liberty, and without compul- 
sory prayer, where she had dwelt under the eye of a pious 
woman and the protection of her father, the only man of 
her acquaintance, 

This utter solitude, required in her infancy by her fragile 
constitution, had been carefully maintained by Beauvouloir. 
As Gabrielle grew up, indeed, her frail youth was strength- 
ened by the care that was lavished on her and the pure air 
she breathed. Still, the experienced leech could not fail to 
mark how the pearly hues about his daughter's eyes would 
alter, darken, or redden with every émotion ; hère frailty 
of body and activity of soûl were indicated by signs which 
long expérience enabled him to read ; also Gabrielle's 
heavenly beauty gave him cause for dreading the deeds of 
violence that were only too common in those times of ré- 
bellion and warfare. Thus many reasons had concurred 
to induce the good man to thicken the shadows and insist 
on solitude for his daughter, whose sensitive nature was 
also a cause for alarm ; a passion, an abduction, an attack 
of any kind, would be her death. 

Though his child rarely needed reproof, a word of blâme 
crushed her; she brooded over it, it sank into her heart and 

How the Son Died 75 

gave rise to pondering mclancholy ; she would retire to 
weep, and weep for long. Thus her moral training had 
needed as niuch tender care as her physical training. The 
old leech dared not tell her the taies which commonly 
enchant children ; they agitated her toc deeply. So the 
father, who bv long practice had learnt so many things, had 
been careful to develop his daughter's frame that the body 
might dull the shocks inflicted by so active a spirit. Ga- 
brielle was his life, his love, his sole désire, and he never 
hesitated to" procure everything that might contribute to 
the desired end. He kept her from books, pictures, music, 
every création of art that could excite her brain. With 
his mother's help he interested Gabrielle in manual occu- 
pations. Tapestry, sewing, and lace-making, the care of 
flowers, the duties of a housewife, the fruit harvest, — in 
short, ail the most homely tasks of life w^ere the lovely 
child's daily fare. Beauvouloir bought her pretty spinning- 
wheels, handsomely inlaid chests, rich carpets, Bernard 
Palissy's pottery, tables, prie-dieus and chairs finely 
carved and covered with costly stufFs, embroidered linen, 
and jewels. With the subtle instinct of a father the old 
man always chose his gifts from such things as were 
decorated in the fanciful taste knovi^n as Arabesque, 
which, as it appeals neither to the émotions nor the 
sensés, speaks only to the mind by its purely Imaginative 

And so, strangely enough, the life to which a father's 
hatred had condemned Etienne d'Hérouville, a father's love 
had provided for Gabrielle. In both the children the soûl 
was like to destroy the body ; and, but for the complète 
solitude that fate had contrived for one, and science had 
created for the other, both might hâve succumbed — he to 
fears, and she to the tide of a too ardent passion of love. 
But, unfortunately, Gabrielle was not born in a land of 
heath and moor, amid the sterner aspects of grudging nature, 
such as the greatest painters always depict as the back- 

"jS A Father's Curse 

ground for their Virgins ; she dwelt in a rich and fertile 
Valley. Beauvouloir could not frustrate the charms of the 
natural groves, the happy arrangement of the flower-beds, 
the cool depth of the grassy carpet, the love revealed in the 
twining and climbing plants. 

Thèse living poems hâve a language of their own, felt 
rather than understood by Gabrielle, who would abandon 
herself to vague dreams under the leafy shade ; and through 
the misty ideas which came to her in her admiration of a 
cloudless sky, her long study of a landscape', seen under 
every aspect lent it by the changing seasons and the varia- 
tions of a sea-born atmosphère, where the fogs of England 
died away into the bright daylight of France, a distant light 
dawned on her mind, the aurora of a day that pierced the 
darkness in which her father kept her. 

Nor had Beauvouloir been able to exclude Gabrielle from 
the influence of divine love ; she added to her admiration 
of nature adoration of the Creator ; she had indeed rushed 
into this first outlet afForded to womanly émotions ; she 
truly loved God, she loved Jésus, the Virgin and the 
saints ; she loved the Church and its splendour ; she was a 
Catholic after the pattern of Saint Theresa who found in 
the Saviour an unfailing spouse, a perpétuai marriage. But 
Gabrielle accepted this passion of lofty soûls with a pathetic 
simplicity that might hâve disarmed the most brutal seducer 
by the innocence of its utterance. 

Whither would this blameless ignorance lead her ? How 
was enlightenment to be brought to an intelligence as pure 
as the calm waters of a lake that has never mirrored aught 
but the blue sky ? What image would be stamped on that 
fair canvas ? Round what tree would the snowy bell- 
flowers of that convolvulus open ? 

The father never asked himself thèse questions without 
an inward shudder. 

At this moment the good old man was making his way 
homeward on his mule, as slowly as though he would fain 

How the Son Died 77 

spin out to ail eternity the road leading from the Castle of 
Hérouville to Ourscamp, the village near which lay his 
estate of Forcalier. His unbounded love for his daughter 
had led him to conceive of a bold scheme indeed. But 
one man in the world could make her happy, and that was 
Etienne. Certainly the angelic son of Jeanne de Saint- 
Savin and the guileless daughter of Gertrude Marana were 
twin soûls. Àny other wife than Gabrielle would terrify 
and kill the heir presumptive to the dukedom, just as it 
seemed to Beauvouloir that Gabrielle must die in the arms 
of any man whose feelings and manners had not the vir- 
ginal gentleness of Étienne's. 

The poor leech had never till now thought of such a 
thing; fate had plotted and commanded this union. But 
yet, in the time of Louis XIII who vv^ould dare to marry 
the son of the Duc d'Hérouville to the daughter of a Nor- 
mandy bone-setter ? Nevertheless from this union alone 
could the posterity proceed on which the old Duke was so 
firmly bent. Nature had destined thèse two îovely créatures 
for each other, God had brought them half-way by an ex- 
traordinary chain of events, and yet human notions and laws 
set between them an impassable gulf. Although the old 
man believed that he herein saw the hand of God, in spite, 
too, of the promise he had extracted from the Duke, he was 
in the grip of such extrême alarm as he thought of the vio- 
lence of that ungoverned temper, that he paused as he came 
to the top of the hill opposite to that of Ourscamp, whence 
he saw the smoke rising from his own roof between the trees 
of his orchard. What decided him was his relationship, 
though illegitimate, a circumstance that might hâve some 
influence over his master's mind. And then, having made 
up his mind, Beauvouloir put his trust in the chances of 
life ; the Duke might die before the marriage ; and besides 
there were précédents : Françoise Mignot, a Dauphiné 
peasant girl, had lately married the Maréchal de l'Hôpital; 
the son of the Constable Anne de Montmorency had 

78 A Father's Curse 

wedded Diane, the daughter of Henri II and a Piémontese 
lady named Philippa Duc. 

While he was thus deliberating, his fatherly affection 
weighing ail the probabilities and calculations, the chances 
for good or evil, and trying to read the future by studying 
its factors, Gabrielle was in the garden choosing flowers 
wherewith to fill a vase made by the illustrious potter who 
did with his glazed clay what Benvenuto Cellini did with 
metals. Gabrielle had set this jar, decorated with animais 
in relief, on a table in the middle of the sitting-room, and 
was arranging the flowers partly to please her grandmother, 
but partly perhaps as a means of expressing her thoughts. 

The tall earthenware vase of Limoges ware, as it was 
called, was filled and standing finished on the handsome 
table-cover, and Gabrielle had exclaimed to her grand- 
mother, ' There ! look — ' when Beauvouloir came in. 

The girl rushed into her father's arms. After the first 
effusions Gabrielle wanted the old man to admire the posy, 
and as he looked at it the leech turned a searching gaze on 
his daughter, making her blush. 

*■ It is high time,' said he to himself, understanding the élo- 
quence of thèse flowers, each of which had certainly been 
chosen for its form and colour, so perfectly was it placed 
to produce a magical effect in the nosegay. 

Gabrielle remained standing, unheeding the spray she 
had begun in her embroidery. As he looked at his 
daughter, a tear gathered in Beauvouloir's eye, and gliding 
down his cheeks, which were a little drawn by a grave 
expression, fell on to his shirt pulled out in front, in the 
fashion of the time, between the points of his jerkin 
above his trunk hose. He tossed off his felt hat with its 
shabby red feather, to pass his hand over his polished 

As he glanced once more at the girl who hère — under 
the dark beams of this room hung with leather and fur- 
nished in ebony, with heavy silk curtains, a lofty chimney- 

How the Son Died 79 

place, in a pleasant diffused light — was still ail his own, 
the poor father felt the tears rising and wiped them away. 
A father who loves his child always longs to keep it young, 
and the man who can see his daughter pass into the power 
of a husband without acute grief does not rise superior to 
higher worlds, but sinks to the meanest depths. 

'■ What ails you, son ? ' asked his old mother, taking ofF 
her spectacles, and seeking in the good man's attitude the 
reason of a silence that puzzled her in one usually so 

The physician pointed to his daughter, and the old 
woman, following the direction of his finger, nodded, as 
much as to say, ' She is a sweet créature.' 

Who could hâve failed to enter into Beauvouloir's feel- 
ings on seeing the maiden as she appeared in the costume 
of that time and under the clear sky of Normandy ? Ga- 
brielle wore the bodice, open with a point in front and 
square behind, in which the Italian painters generally 
dressed their saints and madonnas. This élégant bodice, 
of sky-blue velvet, as sheeny as that of a dragon-fly, fitted 
her closely, clasping her figure so as to show ofF the finely 
modelled form which it seemed to compress ; it showed 
the mould of her shoulders, back, and waist, as exactly 
as if designed by the most accomplished artist, and was 
finished round the throat with an oval slope edged with 
light embroidery in fawn-coloured silk, showing enough 
to reveal the beauty of her shape, but not enough to sug- 
gest désire, A skirt of fawn-coloured stufF that continued 
the flow of the lines presented by the velvet bodice, fell 
to her feet in narrow, flattened pleats. 

Gabrielle was so slender that she looked tall. Her thin 
arm hung by her side with the inertia that deep méditation 
imparts to the limbs; and standing thus she was the living 
model of those artless-looking masterpieces of sculpture 
which were then appreciated, and which commend them- 
selves to our admiration by the grâce of long lines, straight 

8o A Father's Curse 

without stifFness, and a firmness of outline that is never 

No swallow skimming past the window at dusk could 
show a more delicately marked shape. Her features were 
small but not mean ; her brow and throat were marbled 
with fine blue veins, tinting the skin like agate and be- 
traying the delicacy of a complexion so transparent that 
you might hâve fancied you saw the blood flowing within. 
This extrême fairness was faintly tinged with pink in the 
cheeks. Her hair, covered with a little blue velvet bon- 
net embroidered with pearls, lay on her temples like two 
streams of beaten gold, and played in curls above her 
shoulders, but did not cover them, The warm tones of 
this silken hair showed off the brilliant whiteness of her 
neck, and by its reflection gave added exquisiteness to the 
pure form of her face. The eyes, rather long and half- 
shut between somewhat heavy eyelids, were in harmony 
with the daintiness of her features and figure ; their pearly 
grey was bright but not vivid ; innocence veiled passion. 

The thin nose would hâve seemed as cold as a steel 
blade but for the rosy, velvety nostrils, so expressive as to 
be out of harmony with the purity of a dreamy brow, 
often startled and sometimes mirthful, always serenely 
lofty. Finally, a pretty little ear attracted the eye, by 
showing beneath the cap between two locks of hair, a 
ruby earring in bright contrast with her milky white 
throat. Hers was not the beauty of the Normandy 
woman, buxom and stout, nor the beauty of the south, in 
which passion lends nobility to matter, nor the essentially 
French beauty that is as fugitive as its expression, nor 
the cold and melancholy beauty of the north ; it was the 
deep seraphic beauty of the Catholic Church, at once 
pliant and firm, severe and tender. 

' VVhere could you see a prettier duchess ? ' said Beau- 
vouloir to himself, as he looked with delight at Gabrielle, 
who, as she stood leaning forward a little, her neck bent 

How the Son Died 8i 

to watch the flight of a bird outside, could only be com- 
pared to a gazelle pausing to listen to the murmur of the 
stream at which it is about to slake its thirst. 

'Come and perch hère,' said Beauvouloir, slapping his 
leg, and giving the girl a look that promised some confi- 
dential speech. 

Gabrielle understood and obeyed. She lightly seated 
herself on her father's knee, and put her arms round his 
neck, crumpling his ruff a good deal. 

' Now, of whom were you thinking when you were 
plucking those flowers ? You never made a finer posy.' 

' Oh, of many things,' said she. ' As I admired those 
flowers, which seem to be made for us, I wondered for 
whom we are made, — we human créatures; who the beings 
are that look at us. You are my father, so I can tell you 
ail I think, and you are so wise that you can explain every- 
thing. I feel within me a force, as it would seem, that 
wants to exert itself; I am struggling with something. 
When the sky is grey I am almost happy ; I am melancholy, 
but calm. But when the day is fine, and the flowers are 
sweet, and I am sitting out there on my bench under the 
honeysuckle and jasmine, I feel as if there were waves 
inside me surging up against my stillness. Ideas come into 
my head that seem to hit me and fly away, as the birds fly 
in the evening; I cannot catch them. Well, and when I 
hâve made a posy in which the colours are arranged as they 
are in tapestry, red against white, and brown mingling with 
green, when it is full of life and the air blows through it, 
and the flowers nod, and there is a medley of scents and a 
tangle of bloom, I fancy I see what is going on in my own 
mind, and I feel happy. And in church, when the organ 
sounds and the priest responds, and two distinct strains 
answer each other, the human voices and the organ, then 
again I am happy ; the harmony rings through my heart ; 
I pray with a warmth that stirs my blood.' 

As he listened to his daughter, Beauvouloir studied her 

82 A Father's Curse 

with a sagacious eye ; his gaze looked dull from the sheer 
force of thought, as the smooth curl of a waterfall seems 
motionless. He lifted the veil of flesh which hid the secret 
springs by which the spirit acts on the body ; he was watch- 
ing the various symptoms, which long expérience had shown 
him in ail the patients committed to his care, and compar- 
ing them with symptoms discernible in that frail form, was 
half alarmed by the délicate structure of those small bones, 
and the insubstantiality of the milk-white skin ; he tried to 
bring the teaching of science to bear on the future of this 
seraphic créature, and he felt giddy at finding himself, as it 
were, on the edge of a gulf. Gabrielle's too thrilling voice, 
her too graceful form, made him anxious ; and, after ques- 
tioning her, he questioned himself. 

' You are not happy hère ! ' he exclaimed at last, prompted 
by a crowning idea in conclusion of his méditations. 

She faintly bowed her head. 

' Then God be with us ! I will take you to the Château 
d'Hérouville,' he said with a sigh. ' There you can hâve 
sea-baths, which will strengthen you.' 

' Do you mean it, father ? You are not laughing at your 
Gabrielle ? I hâve so longed for the castle and the men- 
at-arms and the captains and Monseigneur.' 

' Yes, my child ; your nurse and Jean can accompany 

' And very soon ? ' 

' To-morrow,' said the old man, rushing out into the gar- 
den to hide his agitation from his mother and his daughter. 

'God is my witness,' cried he, 'that it is not ambition 
that prompts this step. My child to save, poor little 
Etienne to be made happy, — thèse are my sole motives.' 

But while he thus questioned himself, he felt in the 
depths of his conscience an irrépressible satisfaction at the 
thought that if his plan should succeed, Gabrielle would one 
day be Duchesse d'Hérouville. There is always the man 
in the father. 

How the Son Died 83 

He walked about for a long time, went in to supper, 
and ail the evening rejoiced in contemplating his daughter 
amid the soft and sober poetry with which he had surrounded 

When, before going to bed, the grandmother, the nurse, 
the leech, and Gabrielle knelt down to pray together, he 
said : ' Let us beseech the Lord for His blessing on my 

His old mother, who knew what he proposed to do, felt 
her eyes fill with her few remaining tears. Gabrielle, 
purely curious, flushed with delight. The father quaked ; 
he feared some disaster. 

^ After ail,' said his mother, ' do not be so alarmed, 
Antoine. The Duke will not kill his granddaughter.' 

' No,' replied he, ' but he may compel her to marry some 
ruffianly baron who will destroy her.' 

Next day Gabrielle, mounted on an ass, followed by her 
nurse on foot and her father riding a mule, and the man 
leading two horses loaded with their baggage, set out for 
the Castle of Hérouville, which the cavalcade reached only 
at dusk. To keep the journey a secret Beauvouloir had 
taken cross roads, starting early in the morning, and he 
had carried provisions so as to take a meal on the way 
without being seen at the inns. Thus, without being seen 
by any of the Duke's people, he went in by night to the 
house which the disowned son had so long inhabited, and 
where Bertrand was awaiting him, — the only person he 
had taken into his confidence. 

The old squire helped the leech, the nurse, and the man 
to unload the horses, carry in the baggage, and settle 
Beauvouloir's daughter in Étienne's dwelling. When 
Bertrand saw Gabrielle he stood quite amazed. 

' I could fancy it was her mother ! ' cried he. '■ She is 
as slight and fragile as she was ; she has the same fair skin 
and golden hair; the old Duke will love her.' 

84 A Father's Curse 

' God grant it ! ' said Beauvouloir. ' But will he confess 
to his own blood mingled with mine ? ' 

' He cannot disown it,' said Bertrand. ' Many a time 
hâve I waited for him at the door of the Belle Romaine, 
who lived in the Rue Culture-Sainte Catherine. The 
Cardinal de Lorraine was obliged to leave her to Mon- 
seigneur for shame at having been so roughly handled as 
he came out of her house. 

*■ Monseigneur, who at that time was not much past 
twenty, must remember that ambush well. He was a bold 
youth already, and I may say now that he was the leader 
of the assault.' 

*■ He has forgotten ail that,' said Beauvouloir. *■ He 
knows that my wife is dead, but he scarcely remembers 
that I hâve a daughter.' 

' Oh ! two old shipmates, as we are, can steer the boat 
into port,' said Bertrand. ' And, after ail, if he is angry 
and is revenged on our carcasses, they hâve served their 

Before his departure the Duc d'Hérouville had forbidden 
everybody attached to the castle, under heavy penalties, to 
go down to the shore where Etienne had hitherto passed his 
life unless the Duc de Nivron himself should désire their 
Company. Thèse orders, suggested by Beauvouloir, who 
had argued that it was necessary to leave Etienne free to 
indulge his old habits, secured to Gabrielle and her nurse 
the absolute privacy of the precincts whence the leech 
forbade them wander without his permission. 

During thèse two days Etienne had kept his room, the 
great state room, lingering over the charms of his melan- 
choly réminiscences. 

That bed had been his mother's ; close to where he 
stood she had gone through that terrible scène attending 
his birth when Beauvouloir had saved two lives. She had 
breathed her woes to this furniture, it was she who had 
used it, her eyes had often gazed upon those panels j and 

How the Son Died 85 

how often had she corne to this window to call or signal to 
her poor boy, now the absolute master of the castle. 

Alone in this room, whither he had last corne by stealth, 
brought by Beauvouloir to kiss his dying mother for the 
last time, he now brought her to life again, spoke to her, 
listened to her; he would drink deep of the spring that 
never runs dry, whence so many songs flow that écho 
Super flumina Babylonis. 

On the day after his return Beauvouloir waited on his 
young master, and gently reproved him for having stayed in 
the room without going out of it, pointing out to him that 
it would not do to give up his open-air life and become a 

* This room is spacious,' said the youth ; ' and hère my 
mother's soûl dwells.' 

However, the leech, by the kindly influence of affection, 
persuaded Etienne to promise to walk out every day, either 
on the sea-shore, or inland through the country, as yet quite 
unknown to him. Etienne, notwithstanding, still given up 
to his remembrances, stood at his window ail the next day 
looking out at the sea ; it appeared under such various 
aspects that he fancied he had never seen it so lovely. He 
varied his contemplation by reading Petrarch, one of his 
favourite authors, whose poetry went straight to his heart as 
a monument of constant and single-hearted love. Etienne 
felt that he had in himself no power for many passions ; 
he could love but once, and in but one way. Though that 
love would be deep, like ail that is unmingled, it would also 
be calm in its expression, as suave and pure as the Italian 
poet's sonnets. 

As the sun set, this child of solitude began to sing in that 
marvellous voice which had fallen as a harbinger of hope 
on ears so insensible to music as those of his father. He 
gave utterance to his melancholy by variations on an air 
which he repeated again and again, like the nightingale. 
This air, ascribed to the late King Henri IV, was not the 

86 A Father's Curse 

famous ' Jir de Gabrielle ' but one very superior to that in 
construction ; and as a melody as well as an expression of 
feeling, admirers of old-world compositions will recognise 
it by the words, also written by the great king. The tune 
had probably been a réminiscence of those that lulled his 
childhood in the mountains of Béarn. 

* Viens, Aurore, 
Je t'implore. 

Je suis gai quand je te vois ; 

La Bergère 

Qui m'est chère 
Est vermeille comme toi. 

De rosée 

La rose a moins de fraîcheur ; 

Une hermine 

Est moins fine ; 
Le lys a moins de blancheur.* 

After having thus artlessly expressed his feelings in song, 
Etienne looked out at the sea and said : — 

' There is my betrothed — my one and only love.' 
And again he sang thèse lines of the ballad, 

* Elle est blonde 
Sans seconde ! ' 

and repeated it as uttering the poetical urgency which 
rises up in a timid youth, bold only when he is alone. 
This surging song, with its breaks and its fresh outbursts, 
interrupted and begun again, till at length it died in a last 
falling note that grew fainter like the vibrations of a bell, 
was full of dreams. 

At that instant a voice he felt inclined to attribute to 
some siren risen from the waves, a woman's voice, repeated 
the air he had just sung, but with the hesitancy natural to 
a person to whom the power of music is revealed for the 

How the Son Died 87 

first tlme; hc disccrned in it the uncertain language of a 
heart just awakening to the poetry of harmony. Etienne, 
who by long exercise of his own voice had learnt the lan- 
guage of song, in which the soûl finds as many means of 
utterance for its thoughts as it does in speech, could divine 
ail the shy surprise that was revealed in this attempt. 

VVith what religious and mysterious admiration did he 
listen ! The stillness of the evening allowed him to catch 
every sound, and he thrilled as he heard the rustle of a 
long trailing dress ; he was astonished to perceive in him- 
self — accustomed as he was to surprises of terror that 
brought him within an inch of death — the sensé of balm 
to his soûl which of old had corne to him at the approach 
of his mother. 

' Corne, Gabrielle, my child,' said Beauvouloir's voice. 
'I hâve forbidden you to stay out on the shore after sunset. 
Go in, my girl.' 

' Gabrielle ! ' thought Etienne. ' What a pretty name ! ' 

Beauvouloir presently appeared on the scène, and roused 
his master from one of those méditations which are as deep 
as a dream. 

It was quite dark, but the moon was rising. 

' Monseigneur,' said the old man, '■ you hâve not been 
out to-day. That is not right.' 

' And I — may I go out on the shore after sunset? ' asked 

The implication conveyed in the question, a first sem- 
blance of désire, made the leech smile. 

' You hâve a daughter, Beauvouloir ? ' 

' Yes, my lord, the child of my old âge, my beloved little 
girl. Monseigneur the Duke, your noble father, gave me 
such strict injunctions to watch over your precious life that, 
as I could no longer go to Forcalier to see her, I hâve 
brought her away, to my great regret ; and to conceal her 
from ail eyes I hâve placed her in the house where your 
lordship used to live. She is so fragile that I fear every 

88 A Father's Curse 

shock, even too strong an émotion ; and I hâve not allowed 
her to learn anything, she would hâve killed herself.' 

' Then she knows nothing ? ' asked Etienne, surprised. 

' She has ail the skill of a good housewife ; but she has 
grown up as the plants grow. Ignorance, Monseigneur, is 
a thing as sacred as science. Knowledge and ignorance 
are two distinct conditions of being ; each enwraps the 
seul as in a winding-sheet. Learning has enabled you to 
live ; ignorance has saved my daughter. The best hidden 
pearls escape the diver's eye and live happy. I may com- 
pare my Gabrielle to a pearl ; her complexion has its sheen, 
her soûl is as pure, and till now, my home at Forcalier has 
been her shell.' 

' Come with me,' said Etienne, wrapping a cloak about 
him. ' I will walk by the sea; the night is soft.' 

Beauvouloir and his young master walked on in silence 
to a spot where a beam of light from between the shutters 
of the fisherman's house shed a path of gold across the sea. 

' I cannot express the feelings produced in me by the 
sight of a ray cast out across the waters,' said the bashful 
youth to the leech. ' I hâve so often watched the windov/ 
of that room, till the light was extinguished ; ' and he 
pointed to the room that had been his mother's. 

' Though Gabrielle is so délicate,' said Beauvouloir, 
cheerfully, ' it will not hurt her to walk with us ; the night 
is hot and there is no mist in the air. I will go to fetch 
her. But be careful. Monseigneur.' 

Etienne was too shy to offer to go into the house with 
Beauvouloir; besides, he was in the stunned condition into 
which we are thrown by the high tide of ideas and feelings 
produced by the dawn of passion. 

Feeling more free when he found himself alone, as he 
looked at the moonlit sea he exclaimed : — 

' The océan must hâve passed into my soûl ! ' 

The sight of the graceful living statuette that now came 
out to meet him, silvery in the enveloping moonbeams, in- 

How the Son Died 89 

creased the beating of Étienne's heart, but yet it was not 

' My child,' said Beauvouloir, ' this is my lord the Duke.' 

At this instant Etienne longed to be a colossus like his 
father, he would hâve rejoiced in seeming strong instead of 
frail. Every vanity natural to a man and a lover pierced 
his heart like arrows, and he stood in distressed silence, 
conscious for the first time of his imperfections. 

Embarrassed by her courtesy, he bowed awkwardly in 
return, and remained close to Beauvouloir, v^^ith whom 
he conversed as they walked along the shore ; but Ga- 
brielle's respectful and timid manner gave him courage, 
and he ventured to address her. 

The incident of the song was purely accidentai ; the 
leech had prepared nothing ; he had believed that in tvi^o 
beings whose hearts had been kept pure by solitude, love 
would arise with perfect simplicity. Thus Gabrielle's 
répétition of the strain was a ready-made subject of 

During this walk Etienne was aware of that physical 
lightness which every man has experienced at the moment 
when first love transfers the very élément of his life into 
another being. He offered to teach Gabrielle to sing. 
The poor boy was so happy to be able to show himself 
superior in any respect, in the eyes of this young girl, 
that he trembled with joy when she accepted. 

At that moment the moonlight fell full on Gabrielle, 
and allowed Etienne to see certain vague points of resem- 
blance between her and his dead mother. Like Jeanne 
de Saint-Savin, Beauvouloir's daughter was slender and 
délicate j in her, as in the Duchess, suffering and disap- 
pointment produced a mysterious grâce. She had the 
dignity particular to those on whom the customs of the 
world hâve had no effect, in whom everything is pleasing 
because everything is natural. But besides this, there was 
in Gabrielle the blood of the beautiful Italian revived in 

90 A Father's Curse 

the third génération, and giving the child the véhément 
passions of a courtesan in a pure soûl ; hence an inspired 
look that fired her eyes, that sanctified her brow, that 
made her radiate light, as it were, and gave her movements 
the sparkle of living flame, 

Beauvouloir was startled as he noted this, w^hich nowa- 
days might be called the phosphorescence of the mind ; the 
leech regarded it as a forecast of death. 

Etienne happened to turn as the girl was craning her 
neck, like a shy bird peeping out of its nest. Screened by 
her father, Gabrielle was able to study Etienne at her ease, 
and her expression was as much of curiosity as of pleasure, 
of kindliness as of artless boldness. Etienne did not strike 
her as sickly, only as délicate. She thought him so like 
herself that there was nothing to frighten her in this lord 
and master. Etienne's pallid face, his fine hands, his feeble 
smile, his hair parted into two flat bands ending in curls that 
fell over his lace ruff, the noble brow lined with youthful 
sorrow, — ail this contrast of luxury and sadness and power 
and weakness charmed her; for did it not smile on the 
instinct of motherly protection which lies in the germ in 
love ? Did it not stimulate the need that every woman 
feels to find something unlike the common herd in the man 
she means to love ? 

In both of them new thoughts and new sensations rose 
up with a vigor and fulness that expanded the soûl. They 
both stood surprised and speechless, for the utterance of a 
feeling is the less démonstrative in proportion to its depth. 
Every lasting affection begins in dreamy méditation. It 
was well, perhaps, that thèse two should meet for the first 
time under the mild light of the moon so as not to be too 
suddenly dazzled by the glories of love ; and it was fitting 
that they should see each other on the margin of the sea, 
which was an image of the immensity of their feelings. 
They parted full of each other, each fearing that the other 
had not been satisfied. 

How the Son Died 91 

From his high window Etienne looked down on the light 
in the house that held Gabiielle. During that hour of 
hope mingled with fear, the young poet found new mean- 
ing in Petrarca's sonnets. He had seen a Laura — an 
exquisite and delightful créature, as pure and golden as a 
sunbeam, as intelligent as the angels, as dépendent as a 
woman. A due was supplied to his studies for twenty 
years, he understood the mystical connection of every 
kind of beauty ; he discerned how much of woman there 
was in the poetry he delighted in ; in fact, he had so 
long been in love without knowing it, that the past was ail 
merged in the agitations of that lovely night. Gabrielle's 
likeness to his mother he thought a divine dispensation. 
His love was no treason to his grief; this love was a con- 
tinuance of motherhood. He could think of the girl lying 
under the cottage roof with the same feelings as his mother 
had known when he was sleeping there. 

Nay, the resemblance was a fresh link between the 
présent and the past. The mournful countenance of 
Jeanne de Saint-Savin rose before him against the 
cloudy background of memory ; he saw her faint smile, 
he heard her gentle voice, and he bowed his head and 

The light in the house below was extinguished. Etienne 
sang the little ballad of Henri IV with fresh expression, 
and from afar Gabrielle's attempts echoed the song. The 
girl, too, was making her first excursion into the enchanted 
realm of ecstatic love. This answer filled Etienne's heart 
with joy ; the blood that flowed through his veins lent him 
such strength as he had never before known; love gave him 
vigour. Only feeble beings can conceive of the joy of this 
régénération in the midst of life. The poor, the sufFering, 
the ill-used, hâve ineffable moments ; so little makes the 
whole world to them. And Etienne was related by a thou- 
sand traits to the Folk of the Dolorous City. His récent 
aggrandisement caused him nothing but fear, and love was 

92 A Father's Curse 

bestowing the invigorating balm of strength ; he was in 
love with love. 

Etienne was up betimes in the morning to fly to his 
old home, where Gabrielle, prompted by curiosity and an 
eagerness she w^ould not confess to herself, had already 
dressed her hair and put on her pretty costume. Both 
were possessed by the wish to meet again ; both equally 
dreaded the outcome of the interview. He, for his part, 
you may be sure, had chosen his finest lace, his richest 
wrought cloak, his violet velvet trunks ; in fact, he was 
dressed in the handsome fashion which appeals to our 
memory when we think of Louis XIII, — a person as 
much oppressed in the midst of splendour as Etienne had 
hitherto been. Nor was their attire the sole point of re- 
semblance between the sovereign and his subject. In 
Etienne, as in Louis XIII, many sensitive émotions met in 
contrast: chastity, melancholy, vague but very real suffer- 
ing, a chivalrous bashfulness, a fear of failing to express 
sentiments in their purity, a dread of being too suddenly 
hurried into the joys which noble soûls prefer to post- 
pone, the burthensome sensé of power, and the instinctive 
bent towards obédience which is characteristic of those who 
are indiffèrent to mère interest, but full of love for ail that 
a great genius has designated as Astral. 

Though she had indeed no knowledge of the world, it had 
occurred to Gabrielle that the daughter of a bone-setter, the 
humble owner of Forcalier, was too far beneath Monseigneur 
Etienne, Duc de Nivron, heir to the House of Hérouville, 
for them to be on equal terms ; she never thought of the 
elevating power of love. The girl was too guileless to 
think of this as an opportunity for aiming at a position in 
which any other damsel would hâve been eager to place 
herself; she had seen nothing but the obstacles. 

Loving already, without knowing what love was, she 
saw her happiness far away and wished to reach it only as 

How the Son Died 93 

a child longs for the golden grapes that it covets but that 
hang too high. To a girl that could be moved to tears at 
the sight of a flower and be aware of love in the chants of 
the liturgy, how deep and strong were the émotions of the 
past day at the sight of the weakness of her lord, bringing 
comfort to her own. But Etienne had grown in her mind 
during the night, she had made him her hope, her strength; 
she had set him so high that she despaired of reaching up 
to him. 

' Hâve I vour permission to call on you sometimes, to 
intrude on your domain ? ' asked the Duke, looking down. 

As she saw Etienne so humble, so timid, — for he, on his 
part, had deified Beauvouloir's daughter, — Gabrielle felt the 
sceptre he had given her an embarrassment. Still she was 
immensely flattered and touched by this homage. Women 
alone know how infinitely bewitching is the respect shown 
to them by a master. But she feared to deceive herself 
and, quite as curious as the first woman of them ail, she 
pined to know. 

' Did you not promise yesterday that you would teach 
me music ? ' she replied, hoping that music might aiFord a 
pretext for their being together. 

If the poor child had but known how Etienne lived, she 
would hâve been careful to suggest no doubt. To him 
speech was the direct expression of the mind, and thèse 
words pained him deeply. He had come with a full heart, 
fearing even a dimness in the light, and he was met with a 
doubtful reply. His happiness was darkened, he was cast 
back on his solitude, and the flowers had vanished with 
which he had beautified it. 

Gabrielle, enlightened by the presentiment of sorrow that 
is peculiar to the angels whose task it is to soothe it, and 
which is no doubt a heavenly charity, at once perceived 
the pain she had given. She was so shocked at her own 
blunder that she longed for God-like power to be able to 
unveil her heart to Etienne, for she had understood the 

94 A Father's Curse 

cruel agitation that can be caused by a reproach or a stern 
look. She artlessly showed him the clouds that had risen 
in her soûl, forming, as it were, a golden wrapping for 
the dawn of her affection. One tear from Gabrielle 
turned Étienne's grief to joy, and then he accused himself 
of tyranny. 

It was a happy thing for them that they thus from the 
first gauged the measure of each other's heart -, they could 
thus avoid a thousand collisions that would hâve bruised 
them. Suddenly, Etienne, feeling that he must entrench 
himself behind some occupation, led Gabrielle to a table in 
front of the little window where he had known so much 
sorrow, and where henceforth he was to gaze on a flower 
fairer than any he had yet studied. There he opened a book 
over which they both bent their heads, their curls mingling. 

Thèse two, so strong in heart, so feeble in frame, and 
made beautiful by the grâce of suffering, were a touching 
picture. Gabrielle knew none of woman's arts ; she looked 
at him when he bade her, and the soft beams of their eyes 
only ceased to regard each other by an impulse of modesty. 
She had the joy of telling Etienne how much pleasure it 
gave her to hear his voice ; she paid no heed to the mean- 
ing of his words when he explained the intervais and value 
of the notes ; she listened, but forgot the melody in the 
instrument, the idea in the form, — an ingenuous flattery, 
the first that cornes to true love. 

Gabrielle thought Etienne handsome ; she must feel the 
velvet of his cloak, touch the lace of his collar. As to 
Etienne, he was transfigured under the créative light of 
those bright eyes ; they stirred in him a life-giving sap which 
sparkled in his eyes, shone on his brow, revived, renewed 
his spirit ; and he did not suffer from this fresh play of his 
faculties, on the contrary, it strengthened him. Happiness 
was as nourishing milk to this new vitality. 

As nothing could divert them from themselves, they 
remained together not only that day, but every other; for 

How the Son Died 95 

they were ail in ail to each other from the first, passing the 
sceptre froni hand to hand, playing as a child plays with 
life. Sitting quite happy on the golden sands, each told 
the other the story of the past — to him so painful though 
full of dreams, to her a dream but full of painful joys. 

' I never had a mother,' said Gabrielle, ' but my father 
was as good as God to me.' 

*■ I never had a father,' replied the disowned son, ' but 
my mother was ail Heaven to me.' 

Etienne spoke of his youth, his love for his mother, his 
fondness of flowers. Àt this Gabrielle exclaimed ; on 
being questioned she blushed and could not explain ; then, 
when a cloud passed over the brow, which death seemed 
ever to fan with his wing, on which the soûl made visible 
betrayed Étienne's least émotions, she answered : — 

' I, too, used to love flowers.' 

Was not this such a confession as maidens make, believ- 
ing that lovers hâve been bound even in the past by a com- 
mon taste ? Love always tries to seem old ; that is the 
vanity of children. 

Next day Etienne brought her flowers, ordering the rar- 
est, such as of yore his mother would hâve procured for 
him. Can any one guess how deeply rooted the fibres may 
be of a feeling thus reverting to the traditions of maternity, 
and lavishing on a woman the caressing care by which his 
mother had beautified his life ? To him what dignity there 
seemed in thèse trifles which united those two affections ! 

Flowers and music became the language of their love. 
Gabrielle replied with posies to those Etienne sent her, 
such posies as at once showed the old leech that his daugh- 
ter knew more than he could teach her. The practical 
ignorance of both the lovers thus formed a dark background 
against which the slightest incidents of their intimacy, 
so purely spiritual, stood out in exquisite grâce, like the 
élégant red outline of the figures on a fine Etruscan vase. 
Each trifling word bore a full tide of meaning, for it was 

96 A Father's Curse 

the outcome of their thoughts. Incapable, both, of any 
boldness, every beginning to them seemed an end. Though 
absolutely free, they were prisoners to a guilelessness which 
would hâve been heartbreaking to either if they had 
understood the meaning of their vague émotions. They 
were at once the poets and the poem. Music, the most 
sensuous of the arts to loving soûls, was the interpréter of 
their ideas, and it w^as joy to them to repeat the same strain, 
pouring out their passion in the wide flood of sound in 
which their spirits spoke unhindered. 

Love often thrives in antagonism, in quarrelling and 
peacemaking, in the vulgar struggle between mind and 
matter. But the very first wing-stroke of true love carries 
it far above thèse struggles. Two natures cease to be dis- 
cernible when both are of one essence. Like Genius in its 
highest expression. Love can dwell in the fiercest light, 
can endure it and grow in it, and needs no shadow to 
enhance his beauty. 

Gabrielle, in that she was a woman, Etienne, because he 
had suffered and thought much, soon soared beyond the 
sphère of vulgar passions and dwelt above it. Like ail 
feeble natures, they were at once soaked in faith, in that 
heavenly purple which doubles their strength by doubling 
the soûl. To them the sun was always at noon. They 
soon had that perfect trust in each other which can admit no 
jealousy, no torturing doubts ; their self-sacrifice was always 
prompt, their admiration unfailing. Under thèse conditions 
love brought no pang. Equally feeble, but strong by their 
union, though the young nobleman had a certain superiority 
of learning, a certain conventional prééminence, the leech's 
daughter was more than his match in beauty, in loftiness 
of sentiment, in the refinement she shed on every pleasure. 

And so on a sudden the two white doves flew with equal 
wing under a cloudless sky. Etienne loved and was loved ; 
the présent was serene, the future clear; he was master, 
the castle was his, the sea was there for them both. No 

How the Son Died 97 

anxiety disturbed the harmony of their two-part hymn; the 
virgin innocence of their sensés and their mind made the 
world seem noble, their thoughts flowed on without an effort. 
Désire, whose satisfaction bhghts so many buds, the blot 
on earthly love, had not yet touched them. Like two 
Zéphyrs seated on one branch of a willow-tree, they still 
were content with contemplating each other's image in the 
limpid mirror below. Infinitude satisfied them. They could 
look at that océan without craving to sail over it in the 
white-sailed boat with flower-wreathed ropes, of which Hope 
is the pilot. 

There is a moment in love when it is sufficient to itself, 
happy in mère living. During that springtime when every- 
thing is in bud, the lover will often hide from the woman 
he loves, to see her better and delight in her more. But 
Etienne and Gabrielle rushed together into the joys of that 
childlike time ; sometimes as two sisters in their artless 
confidence, sometimes as two brothers in bold inquiry. 
Love generally présupposes a slave and a divinity ; but 
thèse two realised Plato's noble dream ; they were but one 
divinity. They cared for each other in turns. 

By and by, slowly, kisses came ; but as pure as the 
lively, happy, harmless sports of young animais making 
acquaintance with life. The feeling which led them to 
utter their soûl in impassioned song invited them to love 
through the endless aspects of the same happiness. Their 
delights gave them no delirium, no wakeful nights. This 
was the infancy of pleasure, growing up unaware of the 
fine red flowers that will presently crown its stem. They 
were familiar, never dreaming of danger, breathing their 
soûls out in a word or in a look, in a kiss or in the long 
pressure of clasping hands. They innocently boasted of 
their beauty, and in thèse idylls invented treasures of lan- 
guage, devising the sweetest exaggerations, the most véhé- 
ment diminutives imagined by the antique Muse of Tibul- 
lus and echoed by Italian poets. On their lips and in 

98 A Father's Curse 

their hearts they found the constant play of the foaming 
wavelets of the sea on the fine sandy shore, ail se alike, ail 
so différent. Happy, unending fidelity ! 

Counting by days this time lasted five months ; counting 
by the infinité variety of expérience, of thoughts, dreams, and 
looks, of flowers that blossomed, of hopes fulfilled, of pure 
delights, — her hair unpinned, elaborately combed out, and 
then refastened with flowers, conversations interrupted, 
begun again, and dropped, giddy laughter, feet wetted in 
the wav^es, childish hunts for shells hidden among the 
stones, — by kisses, surprises, embraces, — call it a life- 
time and death will justify the word. 

Some lives are always dark, worked out under grey skies ; 
but a glorious day when the sun fires a clear atmosphère 
was the image of the Maytime of their love, during which 
Etienne hung ail the roses of his past life round Gabrielle's 
neck, and the girl bound up ail her future joys with those 
of her lord. 

Etienne had had but one sorrow in his life, his mother's 
death ; he was destined to know but one love, Gabrielle. 

The coarse rivality of an ambitious man hurried this 
honeyed existence to its end. 

The Duc d'Hérouville, an old warrior alive to the 
wiles of others, roughly but skilfully cunning, heard the 
whispering voice of suspicion after giving the promise de- 
manded of him by Beauvouloir. The Baron d'Artagnon, 
lieutenant of his Company of ordnance, enjoyed his full con- 
fidence on ail matters of policy. He was a man after the 
Duke's heart; a sort of butcher, hugely built, tall, of a manly 
countenance, harsh and stern, a bandit in the service of the 
King, roughly trained, of an iron will in action but easy to 
command ; a nobleman and ambitious, with the blunt hon- 
esty of a soldier and the cunning of a politician. His hand 
matched his face, the broad, hairy hand of the condottiere. 
His manners were rude, his speech abrupt and short. 

How the Son Died 99 

Now the Governor had entrusted his lieutenant to keep 
an eye on the leech's demeanor with the nevvly proclaimed 
heir. In spite of the secrecy maintained with regard to 
Gabrielle, it was difficult to deceive the commander of a 
Company of ordnance ; he heard two voices singing, he 
saw a light in the evening from the house by the sea. He 
suspected that ail Étienne's care of his person, the flowers 
he sent for, the orders he gave, must concern a woman ; and 
then he met Gabrielle's nurse in the road, fetching some 
article of dress from Forcalier, carrying linen or an em- 
broidery frame or some girlish implement. 

The soldier determined to see the leech's daughter, and 
he saw her; he fell in love. Beauvouloir was rich. The 
Duke would be furious at the good man's audacity. On 
thèse facts the Baron d'Artagnon based the édifice of his 
hopes. The Duke, if he should hear that his son was in 
love, would certainly want him to marry into some great 
house, an heiress of landed estate ; and to cure Etienne of 
his passion, ail that would be needful was to make Gabrielle 
faithless by giving her in marriage to a nobleman whose 
lands were pledged to a money-lender. The Baron himself 
had no land. 

This spéculation would hâve been a grand one with 
regard to most persons as we find them in the world, but 
it was destined to fail with Etienne and Gabrielle. Chance, 
however, had already served the Baron d'Artagnon a good 

During his résidence in Paris, the Duke had avenged 
Maximilien's death by killing his son's adversary, and he 
had heard of an unexpectedly good alliance for Etienne 
with the heiress to the estâtes of a branch of the Grand- 
lieu family, a tall and scornful damsel who was, neverthe- 
less, tempted by the hope of one day bearing the name of 
Duchesse d'Hérouville. The Duke hoped to get his son 
to marry Mademoiselle de Grandlieu. On hearing that 
Etienne loved the daughter of a contemptible leech, his 

loo A Father's Curse 

hope became a détermination. To him this left no ques- 
tion on the matter. The Duke ordered out his coaches and 
attendants, and made his way from Paris to Rouen, bringing 
to his château the Comtesse de Grandheu, her sister, the 
Marquise de Noirmoutier, and Mademoiselle de Grandlieu, 
under pretence of showing them the province of Normandy. 

For some days before his arrivai, though no one knew 
how the rumour had been spread, everybody, from Hérou- 
ville to Rouen, was talking of the young Duc de Nivron's 
attachment to Gabrielle Beauvouloir, the famous bone-set- 
ter's daughter. The good folks of Rouen mentioned it to 
the old Duke just at the height of a banquet which they 
were giving him, for the guests were delighted by the notion 
of annoying the despot of the province. This news excited 
the Governor's anger to frenzy. He sent orders to the Baron 
to keep his advent at Hérouville a profound secret, enjoin- 
ing on him to forefend what he regarded as a disaster. 

Meanwhile Etienne and Gabrielle had unwound ail the 
thread of their bail in the vast labyrinth of love, and, 
equally willing to remain in it, they dreamed of living 
there. One day they were sitting by the windovv where 
so many things had happened. The hours, filled up at 
first with sweet talk, had led to some thoughtful pauses. 
They were indeed beginning to feel a vague craving for 
certain possessions, and had confided to each other their 
confused notions, reflected from the beautiful imaginings 
of two pure soûls. 

During thèse still, peaceful hours, Etienne had felt his 
eyes fîll with tears more than once as he held Gabrielle's 
hand pressed to his lips. Like his mother, but happier 
just now in his love than she had been, the disowned son 
was gazing at the sea, gold-colour on the strand, black in 
the distance, and swept hère and there into long, white 
breakers foretelling a tempest. Gabrielle, following the 
instinct of her lover, also looked at the sea and was silent. 
A mère look, one of those glances in which two soûls ex- 

How the Son Died loi 

press their mutual reliance, was enough to communicate 
their thoughts. 

The utmost dévotion would hâve been no sacrifice to 
Gabrielle nor a demand on Étienne's part. They loved 
with the sentiment which is so divinely one and unchange- 
able in every instant of its eternity that sacrifice is unknown 
to it, and it fears no disappointment nor delay. But Etienne 
and Gabrielle were absolutely ignorant of what might satisfy 
the cravino; which agitated their soûls. 

When the faint hues of twilight had dropped a veil over 
the sea, and the silence was unbroken, save by the throb- 
bing of the waves on the strand, Etienne stood up, and 
Gabrielle did the same in vague alarm, for he had dropped 
her hand. Etienne put his arms round the girl, clasping 
her to him with firm and tender pressure, and she, sympa- 
thising with his impulse, leaned on him with weight enough 
to let him feel that she was indeed his, but not enough to 
fatigue him. He rested his too-heavy head on her shoul- 
der, his lips touched her throbbing bosom, his long hair fell 
on her white shoulders and played on her throat. Gabri- 
elle, in her ingenuous passion, bent her head so as to give 
his more room, and put her arm round his neck to support 
herself. And thus they stood, without speaking a word, 
until night had fallen. 

The crickets chirped in their holes, and the lovers listened 
to their song as if to concentrate ail their sensés in one. 

They could only be likened to an angel with feet resting 
on earth, awaiting the hour in which he might fly back to 
heaven. They had realised the beautiful dream of Plato's 
mystical genius — of ail who seek a meaning in human 
life : they were but one soûl ; they had become the myste- 
rious pearl that should grâce the brow of some unknown 
star, the hope of us ail. 

' Will you take me home ? ' said Gabrielle, the first to 
break this exquisite stillness. 

'■ Why should you go ? ' replied Etienne. 

I02 A Father's Curse 

'We ought always to be together,' said she. 

' Then stay.' 

' Yes.' 

Old Beauvouloir's heavy footfall was heard in the 
adjoining room. The doctor found the two young people 
standing apart ; through the window he had seen them 
embracing. Even the purest love craves for mystery. 

'This is not right, my child,' said he to Gabrielle. 
' Hère still, so late, when it is dark.' 

*■ Why not ? ' said she. ' You know that we love each 
other, and he is master hère.' 

* My children,' said the old man, ' if you love each 
other, it is necessary to your happiness that you should be 
married and spend your lives together. But your union 
must be subject to the will of my lord the Duke ' 

' My father promised to do ail I could vi^ish,' cried 
Etienne, eagerly, interrupting Beauvouloir. 

' Then write to him. Monseigneur,' replied the leech. 
' Tell him your wishes, and give me your letter to send 
with one vi^hich I hâve just written to him. Bertrand will 
set out at once and deliver the missives to Monseigneur 
himself. I hâve just heard that he is at Rouen, and is 
bringing -wkh him the heiress of the House of Grandlieu, 
not for himself, I imagine. If I obeyed my presentiments 
I should carry ofF Gabrielle, this very night.' 

' What ! divide us ? ' cried Etienne, half fainting with 
grief and leaning on the girl. 

' Father ! ' was ail she said. 

' Gabrielle,' said the old man, giving her a phial which 
he fetched from a table, and which she held under Étienne's 
nostrils, ' my conscience tells me that nature intended you 
for each other. But I meant to prépare my lord for this 
union which must contravene ail his ideas, and the devil 
has stolen a march on us ! This is Monseigneur le Duc 
de Nivron,' he added to Gabrielle, ' and you are the 
daughter of a humble leech.' 

How the Son Died 103 

* My father swore never to oppose me in anything,' said 
Etienne, calmly. 

'Aye, and he swore to me, too, to consent to whatever 
I might do to provide you with a wife/ replied Beau- 
vouloir, ' But if he should not keep his word ? ' 

Etienne sat down like one stunned. 

' The sea was dark this evening,' he said after a short 

' If you could ride, Monseigneur,' said the leech, *■ I 
would bid you fly with Gabriclle this very evening. I 
know you both ; any other marriage will be fatal to 
either. The Duke would of course cast me into his 
dungeon and leave me to end my days there, on hearing of 
your flight, but I should die joyful if my death would 
secure your happiness. But alas ! a flight on horseback 
would risk your life and Gabrielle's too. We must face 
the Duke's wrath hère.' 

' Hère ! ' echoed poor Etienne. 

*■ We hâve been betrayed by somebody in the castle who 
has stirred up your father's choler,' said Beauvouloir. 

' Come, let us throw ourselves into the sea together,' 
said Etienne, leaning over to speak in Gabrielle's ear, for 
she was kneeling by her lover's side. 

She bowed her head, smiling. 

Beauvouloir guessed their purpose. 

*■ Monseigneur,' said he, ' learning as well as native wit 
has given you éloquence j love must make you irrésistible. 
Confess your love to my lord your father, you will confirm 
my letter, in itself conclusive. Ail is not lost, I believe. 
I love my daughter as well as you love her, and I mean to 
protect her.' 

Etienne shook his head. 

* The sea was very dark this evening,' said he. 

' It was like a sheet of gold at our feet,' replied Gabrielle 
in a musical voice. 

Etienne called for lights, and sat down at his table to 

I04 A Father's Curse 

Write to his father. On one side of his chair Gabrielle 
knelt in silence, watching him write but not reading the 
words : she read everything on Étienne's brow. On the 
other side stood old Beauvouloir, his jovial features un- 
wontedly sad, as sad as this room where Etienne's 
mother had died. A voice within him cried to the old 
man : — 

' Hc will share his mother's fate ! ' 

The letter finished, Etienne held it out to Beauvouloir, 
who hurried away to give it to Bertrand. 

The old squire's horse stood ready saddled and the man 
himself was ready: he started and met the Duc d'Hérou- 
ville only four leagues away. 

' Take me as far as the door of the tower,' said Gabrielle 
to her lover when they were alone. 

They went out through the Cardinal's library and down 
the turret stair, to the door of which Etienne had given 
Gabrielle the key. Bewildered by his sensé of impending 
evil, the poor boy left in the tower the torch he had brought 
to light his lady's steps, and went part of the way home 
with her. But at a short distance from the little garden 
that bordered this humble dwelling with flowers, the lovers 
stood still. Emboldened by the vague terror they both felt, 
in the darkness and stillness they kissed, — the first kiss in 
which soûl and sensé combined to communicate a prophétie 
thrill of pleasure. 

Etienne understood the two aspects of love, and Ga- 
brielle fled for fear of being betrayed into something more 
— what ? She knew not. 

Just as the Duc de Nivron was going up the tower stair 
after shutting the door, a shriek of terror from Gabrielle 
reached his ear, as vivid as a lightning flash that scorches 
the sight. Etienne flew through the rooms and down the 
grand staircase, reached the shore and ran towards the 
house where he saw a light. 

How the Son Died 105 

On entering the little garden, by the gleam of the candie 
standing by her nurse's spinning-wheel, Gabrielle saw a 
man in the chair instead of the good old woman. At the 
Sound of her steps this man had corne to meet her and 
had startled her. 

Indeed, the Baron d'Artagnon's appearance was calculated 
to justify the terror he had caused the girl. 

* You are Beauvouloir's daughter — the Duke's leech ? ' 
said the soldier, when Gabrielle had a little recovered from 
the fright. 

*■ Yes, Monseigneur,' 

' I hâve matters of the highest importance to impart to 
you. I am the Baron d'Artagnon, lieutenant of the Com- 
pany of ordnance commanded by Monseigneur le Duc 

Under the circumstances in which the lovers were placed, 
Gabrielle was struck by this address and the boldness with 
which it was spoken. 

' Your nurse is in there ; she may hear us. Come with 
me,' said the Baron. 

He went out; Gabrielle followed him. They walked 
out on to the strand behind the house. 

' Fear nothing,' said the Baron. 

The words would hâve terrified any one less ignorant ; 
but a simple child who is in love never fears any ill. 

' Dear child,' said the Baron, trying to infuse some honey 
into his accents, ' you and your father stand on the edge of 
a gulf into which you will fall to-morrow. I cannot see 
it without giving you warning. Monseigneur is furious 
with your father and with you. You he imagines hâve 
bewitched his son, and he will see him dead rather than 
your husband. So much for his son ! As to your father, 
this is the détermination my lord has come to : Nine years 
ago your father was accused of a criminal action, the con- 
cealment of a child of noble race at the moment of its 
birth, at which he assisted. Monseigneur, knowing your 

io6 A Father's Curse 

father to be innocent, sheltered him from prosecution by 
law; but he will now hâve him seized and give him up to 
justice, applying indeed for a prosecution. Your father 
will be broken on the wheel ; still, in considération of the 
services he has donc the Duke, he may be let ofF v/ith 
hanging. What Monseigneur proposes to do with you 
I know not ; but I know this : that you can save Mon- 
seigneur de Nivron from his father's rage, save Beauvouloir 
from the dreadful end that awaits him, and save yourself.' 

' What must I do ? ' asked Gabrielle. 

' Go and throw yourself at the Duke's feet, déclare to 
him that though his son loves you it is against your will, 
and tell him that you do not love the young Duke. In 
proof, thereof, ofFer to marry any man he may sélect to be 
your husband. He is generous ; he will give you a hand- 
some portion.' 

* I will do anything but deny my love,' said Gabrielle. 

' But if it is to save your father, yourself, and Mon- 
seigneur de Nivron ? ' 

' Etienne,' said she, ' will die of it — and so shall I ! ' 

' Monseigneur de Nivron will be sorry to lose you, but 
he will live — for the honour of his family. You may 
resign yourself to be only a baron's wife instead of a 
duchess ; and your father will not be killed,' said the 
practical Baron. 

At this moment Etienne had reached the house ; not 
seeing Gabrielle, he uttered a piercing cry. 

' There he is ! ' exclaimed the girl. ' Let me go to 
reassure him.' 

' I will come to-morrow for your answer,' said the Baron. 

'I will consult my father,' she replied. 

'You will see him no more. I havejust received orders 
to arrest him and send him to Rouen, chained and under an 
armed escort,' said Artagnon, and he left Gabrielle stricken 
with terror. 

She rushed into the house and found Etienne horrified 

How the Son Died 107 

by the silence which was the old nurse's only reply to bis 
first question : — 

* Where is she ? ' 

' Hère I am,' cried the girl ; but her voice was toneless, 
she was deadly pale, and could scarcely stand. 

* Where bave you been ? ' said he. ' You screamed ! ' 
' Yes, I hit myself against ' 

' No, my beloved,' replied Etienne, interrupting her, ' I 
heard a man's step.' 

'■ Etienne, we bave certainly in some way ofFended God. 
Kneel down ; let us pray. I will tell you ail afterwards.' 

Etienne and Gabrielle knelt on a prie-dieu; the old 
nurse told her beads. 

' O God ! ' said the girl, with a flight of soûl that bore 
ber far above terrestrial space, ' if we bave not sinned 
against thy holy laws, if we bave not ofFended the Churcb 
or the King, — we who together are but one, and in whom 
love shines like the light Thou hast set in a pearl of the 
sea, — hâve this mercy on us that we be not divided eitber 
in this world or in the next. 

'And thou, dear mother, who art in bliss, beseech the 
Virgin that if Gabrielle and I may not be happy together, 
we may at least die together, and without suffering. Call 
us, and we will go to thee.' 

Then, after their usual evening prayers, Gabrielle told 
him of her interview with the Baron d'Artagnon. 

' Gabrielle ! ' said the youth, finding courage in the 
despair of love, ' I will stand out against my father.' 

He kissed her forehead and not ber lips, then he re- 
turned to the castle, determined to face the terrible man 
who crushed bis whole life. He did not know that 
Gabrielle's dwelling was surrounded by men-at-arms as 
soon as he had left it. 

When, on the following day Etienne went to see Ga- 
brielle, bis grief was great at finding her a prisoner. But 
the old nurse came out to him with a message to say that 

io8 A Father's Curse 

Gabrielle would die rather than deny him, and that she 
knew of a way to évade the vigilance of the guards, and 
would take refuge in the Cardinal's library w^here no one 
would suspect her présence ; only she did not know when 
she might achieve her purpose. So Etienne remained in 
his room where his heart wore itself out in agonised 

At three o'clock the Duke and his suite reached the 
castle, where he expected his guests to supper. And, in 
fact, at dusk. Madame la Comtesse de Grandlieu leaning 
on her daughter's arm, and the Duke with the Marquise 
de Noirmoutier came up the great staircase in solemn 
silence, for their master's stern looks had terrified ail his 

Though the Baron d'Artagnon had been informed of 
Gabrielle's escape, he had reported that she was guarded ; 
he feared lest he should hâve spoilt the success of his own 
particular scheme, if the Duke should find his plans upset 
by the girl's flight. 

The two terrible men bore on their faces an expression 
of ferocity but ill-disguised under the affectation of amiabil- 
ity imposed on them by gallantry. The Duke had com- 
manded his son to be in attendance in the hall. When 
the Company came in, the Baron d'Artagnon read in 
Étienne's dejected looks that he was not yet aware of 
Gabrielle's escape. 

*■ This is my son,' said the old Duke, taking Etienne by 
the hand and presenting him to the ladies. 

Etienne bowed without speaking a word. The Countess 
and Mademoiselle de Grandlieu exchanged glances which 
the old man did not fail to note. 

*Your daughter will be but ill-matched,' said he in an 
undertone ; * was not that your thought ? ' 

*I thought just the contrary, my dear Duke,' replied the 
mother with a smile. 

The Marquise de Noirmoutier, who had come with her 

How the Son Died 109 

sister, laughed significantly. This laugh went to Étienne's 
heart, terrined as he was already by the sight of the tall 

*Well, Monsieur le Duc,' said his father in a low voice, 
with a jovial chuckle, 'I hâve found you a handsome mate, 
I hope ! What do you think of that little girl, my 
cherub ? ' 

The old Duke had never doubted of his son's submis- 
sion. To him Etienne was his mother's son, made of the 
same yielding material. 

' If he only has a son he may départ in peace,' thought 
the old man. ' Little I care ! ' 

' Father,' said the lad in a mild voice, *■ I do not under- 
stand you.' 

' Come into your room, I hâve two words to say to you,' 
replied the Duke, going into the great bedroom. 

Etienne followed his father. The three ladies, moved 
by an impulse of curiosity, shared by the Baron d'Artagnon, 
walked across the vast hall and paused in a group at the 
door of the state bed-chamber, which the Duke had left 
half open. 

' My pretty Benjamin,' said the old man, beginning in 
mild tones, ' I hâve chosen that tall and beautiful damsel 
to be your wife. She is heiress of the lands belonging to 
a younger branch of the House of Grandlieu, an old and 
honest family of the nobility of Brittany. So now, be a 
gallant youth, and recall the best speeches you hâve read in 
your books to make yourself agreeable, and speak gallantly 
as a préface to acting gallantly.' 

' Father, is it not a gentleman's first duty to keep his 
Word ? ' 

' Yes.' 

' Well, then ! When I forgave you for my mother's 
death, dying hère, as she did, because she had married you, 
did not you promise me never to thwart my wishes ? *' I 
myself will obey you as the god of the family ! " you said. 

iio A Father's Curse 

Now I do not dictate to you, I only claim freedom te act 
in a matter which concerns only myself : my marriage.' 

' But as I understood,' said the old man, the blood mount- 
ing to his face, ' you pledged yourself not to hinder the 
propagation of our noble race.' 

'You made no conditions,' said Etienne. 'What love 
has to do with the propagation of the race I know not. 
But what I do know is that I love the daughter of your 
old friend Beauvouloir, the granddaughter of La Belle 

*■ But she is dead ! ' replied the old giant, with an expres- 
sion of mingled mockery and solemnity that plainly showed 
his intention of making away with her. 

There was a moment of utter silence. 

The old Duke then caught sight of the three ladies and 
the Baron. 

At this suprême moment, Etienne, who had so keen a 
sensé of hearing, caught the sound from the library of 
Gabrielle's voice. She, wishing to let her lover know 
that she was there, was singing the old ballad : — 

* Une hermine 
Est moins fine ; 
Le lys a moins de blancheur.' 

On the wings of this verse the disowned son, who had 
been cast into a gulf of death by his father's words, soared 
up to life again. 

Though that one spasm of anguish, so suddenly relieved, 
had struck him to the heart, he collected ail his forces, 
raised his head, and for the first time in his life looked his 
father in the face, answering scorn with scorn, as he said 
with deep hatred ; — 

' A gentleman should not lie ! ' 

With one spring he reached the door opposite to that 
leading into the hall, and called out : — 

How the Son Died m 

<- Gabrielle ! ' 

Then, at once, the gentle créature appeared in the dusk 
like a Hly amid its leaves, trembling in the présence of this 
trio of mocking women who had overheard Étienne's pro- 
fession of love. 

The old Duke, like a gathering thunder-cloud, had reached 
a climax of fury that no words can describe ; his dark fig- 
ure stood out against the brilliant dresses of the three court 
ladies. Most men would hâve hesitated, at least, between 
a mésalliance and the extinction of the race; but in this 
indomitable old man there was the ferocious vein which 
had hitherto proved a match for every earthly difficulty. 
He drew the sword on every occasion as the only way he 
knew of cutting the Gordian knots of life. In the présent 
case, when ail his ideas were so utterly upset, his nature 
was bound to triumph. 

Twice detected in a lie by the créature he abhorred, the 
child he had cursed a thousand times, and now more vehe- 
mently than ever at the moment when his despicable weak- 
ness — to his father the most despicable kind of weakness 
— had triumphed over a force he had hitherto deemed 
omnipotent, the Duke was no longer a father, nor even 
a man ; the tiger rushed out of the den where it lurked. 
The old man, made young by revengefulness, blasted the 
sweetest pair of angels that ever vouchsafed to alight on 
earth, with a look weighted with hatred that dealt death. 

'Then die, both of you ! — you, vile abortion, the évi- 
dence of my dishonour ! And you,' he said to Gabrielle, 
' slut with the viper's tongue, who hâve poisoned my race.* 

The words carried to the two children's hearts the fell 
terror of their purpose. 

As Etienne saw his father raise his hand and blade over 
Gabrielle he dropped dead ; and Gabrielle, trying to support 
him, fell dead by his side. 

The old man slammed the door on them in a rage, and 
said to Mademoiselle de Grandlieu : — 

112 A Father's Curse 

'I will marry you myself!' 

' And are haie enough to hâve a fine family ! * said the 
Countess in the ear of the old Duke, who had served under 
seven kings of France. 

Paris, 1831-1836 


To Monsieur Le Comte Georges Mniszecb 

Some envions persans^ when they see one of the oldest and most 
illustrions of Sarmatian names adorning this page^ may imagine 
that I am endeavonring^ as goldsmiths do^ to enhance a pièce of 
modem work by the addition of an ancient gem^ — a fashion of 
the day. But you^ my dear Count^ and a few others^ will know 
that I aim at paying my debt to taletît^ old memories^ and 

In 1479, on Ail Saints' day, at the moment when this 
taie opens, vespers were just over in the cathedral of 
Tours. The Archbishop Hélie de Bourdeilles rose from 
his throne, himself to pronounce the blessing on the wor- 
shippers. The sermon had been lengthy, dusk had fallen 
before the service was ended, and utter darkness prevailed 
in many parts of the great church, of which the towers, at 
that time, were not finished. 

However, a considérable number of tapers were burning 
in honour of the saints, on the triangular frames constructed 
for the display of thèse pious offerings, of which the virtue 
and meaning hâve never been fully understood. The 
candies on every altar and the candelabra in the choir 
were ail flaming. Thèse masses of light, irregularly 
occurring among the forest of pillars and arches that sus- 
tain the three aisles of the cathedral, scarcely illuminated 
the vast body of the church ; for, by throwing the deep 
shadows of the piers across the upper portions of the build- 
H 113 

114 Maître Cornélius 

ing, they gave rise to a thousand fantastic efFects which 
added to the gloom in which arches, vaulting, and chapels 
were now wrapped, — dark enough as they were even in 
broad daylight. 

The congrégation presented efFects that were not less 
picturesque. Some figures were so dimly visible in the 
doubtful light that they might hâve been taken for phan- 
toms ; others, hit by some side-light, caught the eye like 
the principal heads in a picture. Statues seemed to live, 
and men seemed turned to stone. Hère and there eyes 
sparkled in the recess of a pillar ; the stone had sight, the 
marble spoke, the vault reëchoed sighs, the whole struct- 
ure was endowed with life, 

The life of a people can show no more solemn scène, no 
more majestic moment. Men, in masses, always need action 
to produce a poetical efFect ; still, in thèse homes of religious 
thought, where human wealth is wedded to celestial splen- 
dour, there is an incredible sublimity in silence ; there is 
awe in thèse bended knees and hope in thèse uplifted hands. 
The concord of feeling with which ail the assembled soûls 
fly heavenward, produces an indescribably spiritual efFect. 
The mystical exaltation of the united believers reacts on 
each individual ; the feeble are no doubt borne upwards on 
the full tide of this océan of love and faith. 

Prayer, an electrical force, thus snatches our nature 
upwards. This involuntary union of so many wills, ail 
equally humbled to earth, ail equally lifted to heaven, con- 
tains, no doubt, the secret of the magical influences exerted 
by the chanting of the priests and the music of the organ, 
the perfume and pomp of the altar, the voice of the crowd 
and its méditations in silence. 

Hence we need not be surprised when we see, in the 
middle âges, that so many love afFairs had their beginnings 
in church, after long hours of ecstasy — passions which 
often had no saintly ending and for which the woman, as 
she always must, ended by doing penance. Religious emo- 

Maître Cornélius 115 

tion had certainly, at that time, some affinity with love ; 
it was either the élément or the end of it. Love was still 
a second religion; it still had its fine frenzies, its artless 
superstitions, its sublime émotion in harmony v^^ith those of 

The manners of the time also help to explain the alli- 
ance between religion and love. In the first place, society 
never mingled but in front of the altar. Lords and vassals, 
men and women, were nowhere equal but in church. There 
alone could lovers meet and exchange their vows. Then 
Church Festivals were the only spectacles ; a woman's soûl 
was more deeply stirred within the walls of a cathedral 
than it now is at a bail or an opéra. And does not every 
strong émotion bring a woman round to love ? Thus, by 
dint of forming part of life, and identifying itself with every 
act, religion had become the moving principle of virtue and 
vice alike. Religion was mixed up with science, with poli- 
tics, with éloquence, with crime ; on the throne or in the 
skin of the poor and suffering; it was all-pervading. 

Thèse semi-learned reflections will perhaps certify to 
the truth of this Etude^ though some of its détails may 
scandalise the improved propriety of our âge — a little too 
strait-laced perhaps, as we ail know. 

At the instant when the priests ceased their chanting, 
the last notes of the organ mingling with the throbbing 
Amen sent out from the deep-chested choir-men, while a 
faint murmur still lingered under the remoter vaults and 
the devout assembly awaited the prelate's benedictory words, 
a citizen, in a hurry to get home, or fearing to lose his 
purse in the crowd going out, gently stole away, at the risk 
of being regarded as a bad Catholic. A gentleman, who 
had lurked till now close to one of the enormous pillars 
of the choir, where he was shrouded in the shadow, 
hastened to take the place left vacant by the worthy 
burgess. As soon as he reached it, he hid his face in 
the feathers that adorned his tall grey cap, and knelt down 

ii6 Maître Cornélius 

on a chair in a contrite attitude that might hâve deceived 
an inquisitor. 

His neighbours, having stared curiously at the youth, 
appeared to recognise him and turned to their dévotions 
once more with a significant shrug, by which they ail ex- 
pressed the same idea — a sarcastic mocking thought, an 
unspoken scandai. Two old women nodded their heads 
and exchanged glances which seemed to read the future. 

The chair taken by the young man was close to a chapel 
built in between two pillars, and closed by an iron railing. 
At that time the Chapter was wont to let out at a high 
figure the use of the side chapels situated outside the am- 
bulatory, to certain lordly families, who thus had a right to 
occupy them exclusively, with their people, during divine 
service. This form of simony is practised even now. A 
lady had her chapel in church, as in our day she bas a box 
at the opéra, The lessees of thèse privileged nooks were, 
however, expected to decorate and keep up the altars in 
them. Thus each one made it a point of honour to make 
his chapel as sumptuous as possible, a form of vanity very 
acceptable to the Church. 

In this chapel, close to the railing, knelt a young lady, 
on a handsome square of red velvet with gold tassels, close 
to the spot but just now occupied by the worthy citizen. 
A silver-gilt lamp, hanging from the roof of the chapel 
in front of a magnificent altar, shed a dim light on the 
Book of Hours that the lady held. This book shook 
violently in her hand as the young gentleman came towards 

' Amen ! ' and to this response, chanted in a sweet voice 
with terrible agitation, happily drowned in the gênerai 
noise, she added in a low tone : ' You will ruin me ! ' 

The words were spoken with an innocence to which any 
man of délicate feeling could not fail to submit ; it went 
piercingly to the hcart ; but the stranger, carried away no 
doubt by a tumult of passion that stifled his conscience, 

Maître Cornélius 117 

remained in his seat, and slightly raised his head to look 
hastily into the chapel. 

' He is asleep,' he replied in a voice so carefully modu- 
lated that the words could only be heard by the lady as a 
Sound is heard in its écho. 

The young woman turned pale, her eyes were fur- 
tively raised for an instant from the vellum page to 
glance at an old man whom the youth was study- 
ing. What a terrible understanding was conveyed by 
that look ! When the lady had examined the old man, 
she drew a deep breath and raised her beautiful brow, 
adorned with a precious jewel, to a picture representing 
the Virgin ; this simple gesture and attitude, with her 
glistening eye, revealed her life with imprudent candour; 
if she had been wicked, she would hâve dissimulated her 

The person who inspired such terror in thèse lovers was 
a little old hunchback, almost bald, with a fierce expres- 
sion of face, and a large dingy-grey beard eut square into a 
broad fan. The Cross of Saint-Michael glittered on his 
breast ; his hands, which were coarse, strong, and rough, 
with grey hairs, had no doubt been clasped, but had fallen 
a little apart in the sleep he had so imprudently allowed to 
overtake him. His right hand seemed about to drop on to 
the handle of his dagger, of which the hilt was guarded by 
a large shell of pierced iron ; from the way he had arranged 
the weapon, the handle was just below his hand; if by ill 
chance he should touch it, beyond a doubt he would wake 
and look at his wife. His sardonic mouth and the sharp 
turn of his chin were characteristic signs of a malignant 
wit, of a coldly cruel shrewdness, which would enable him 
to guess everything, because he could imagine anything. 
His yellow forehead was wrinkled like that of a man accus- 
tomed to believe nothing, to weigh everything, to test the 
exact meaning and value of every human action as a miser 
rings every gold pièce. His frame was large-boned and 

ii8 Maître Cornélius 

strongly knit, he might be nervous and consequently irri- 
table — in short, an ogre spoilt in the making. 

When her terrible lord should wake, the young lady 
evidently would be in danger. This jealous husband would 
not fail to note the différence between the old burgess, 
whose présence had given him no umbrage, and the new- 
comer, a young courtier, smart and genteel. 

' Libéra nos a malo ! ' said she, trying to convey her fears 
to the young man. 

He, on his part, raised his head and gazed at her. There 
were tears in his eyes, tears of love or despair. Seeing 
this, the lady started, and lost her head. They had both, 
no doubt, held out for a long time, and perhaps could no 
longer resist a passion encouraged day after day by invinci- 
ble obstacles, brooded by fears, and emboldened by youth. 
The lady vfzs not perfectly beautiful, but her pale com- 
plexion betrayed a secret grief which made her interesting. 
She was élégant, and had the most magnificent hair imagi- 
nable. Watched over by a tiger, she was risking her life 
perhaps by uttering a vi'ord, by allowing her hand to be 
taken, by meeting his look. If ever love had been more 
deeply buried in tu^o hearts, or more rapturously confessed, 
no passion could ever hâve been more dangerous. 

It may easily be understood that to thèse two beings, the 
air, the sounds about them, the noise of steps on the pave- 
ment, — things utterly indiffèrent to other men, — had some 
peculiarities, some perceptible properties which they alone 
detected. Love enabled them, perhaps, to find a faithful 
messenger even in the icy cold hands of the old priests to 
whom they confessed their sins, or from whom they received 
the Host, kneeling at the altar. It was a deep love, love 
graven on the soûl like a scar on the body which remains 
for life. As the two young people looked at each other, 
the woman seemed to say to her lover : ' Let us perish, 
but be one ! ' and the gentleman seemed to reply : ' We 
will be one, but we will not perish ! ' 

Maître Cornélius 119 

But then, with a melancholy jerk of the head, she pointed 
out to him an elderly duenna and a couple of pages. The 
duenna was asleep. The pages were but boys, and seemed 
perfectly reckless of any good or ill that might befall their 

' Do not be frightened as you go out, but go just where 
you are led.' 

The young man had scarcely murmured thèse words, 
when the old gentleman's hand slipped down on to the 
handle of his weapon. At the touch of the cold iron he 
woke with a start, and his tawny eyes at once turned to 
his wife. By a peculiarity rarely bestowed, even on men 
of genius, he awoke with a brain as alert, and ideas as clear, 
as if he had never slept. He was jealous. 

Though the young man k^pt one eye on his mistress, he 
watched her husband out of the other; he rose at once, and 
vanished behind a pillar, just as the old fellow's hands began 
to move ; then he went off as lightly as a bird. The lady's 
eyes were fixed on her book. She pretended to be reading, 
and tried to seem calm ; but she could not hinder herself 
from reddening, nor her heart from beating with unwonted 

The old man heard the véhément throbs that were audi- 
ble in the chapel, and observed the extraordinary flush that 
had mounted to his wife's cheeks, brow, and eyelids ; he 
looked cautiously about him, but seeing no one whom he 
could suspect, he said : — 

' What is troubling you, ma mie ? ' 

^ The smell of the incense makes me squeamish,' said she. 

* Then is it not good to-day ? ' said he. 

In spite of this comment, the wily old man affected to 
believe in this excuse ; still, he suspected some secret trea- 
son, and resolved to watch more carefully over his treasure. / 

The Bénédiction was pronounced. The crowd, without 
waiting for the end of in secula seculorum^ hurried to the 
church door like a torrent. The old lord, as was his eus- 

I20 Maître Cornélius 

tom, waited quietly till the gênerai rush was moderated, 
and then went forth, sending the duenna in front with the 
youngest page, who carried a lantern on a pôle ; he gave 
his arm to his wife, and the other page followed. Just as 
the old gentleman had reached the side door opening into 
the eastern part of the cloisters, by which he usually went 
out, a crowd of people turned baclc from the mass that 
was blocking the front porch, surging in towards the aisle 
where he and his people were standing, and this compact 
body prevented his retracing his steps. The gentleman and 
his wife were, in fact, pushed out by the tremendous pres- 
sure of the crowd. The husband tried to get through first, 
dragging the lady by the arm ; but at this juncture he was 
violently pulled into the street, and his wife was snatched 
from him by a stranger. 

The sinister hunchback at once understood that this was 
a deep-laid plot into which he had fallen. Repenting now 
of his long nap, he collected ail his strength ; with one hand 
he clutched at his wife's gown, and with the other he tried 
to cling to the door post. But the frenzy of love won the 
day from the fury of jealousy. The young man took his 
mistress round the waist, and snatched her away with such 
strength of despair that the tissue of silk and gold, the bro- 
cade, and whalebone gave way, and split with a crash. The 
sleeve was left in her husband's hand. 

A roar like a lion's rose above the shouts of the multitude, 
and an awful voice was heard bellowing thèse words : — 

' Help ! Poitiers ! Hère, to the door ! The Comte de 
Saint-Vallier's people ! Help, this way, help ! ' 

And the Comte Aymar de Poitiers, Sire de Saint-Vallier, 
tried to draw his sword, and get a way cleared for him to 
pass ; but he found himself closely surrounded by thirty or 
forty gentlemen whom it would hâve been dangerous to 
wound. Several of thèse, men of the highest rank, an- 
swered him with gibes, as they hauled him out to the 

Maître Cornélius I2i 

The ravisher, with the swiftness of lightning, had led the 
Countess to an open chapel, where he found her a seat on a 
wooden bench behind a confessional. By the light of the 
tapers burning before the image of the saint to whom the 
chapel was dedicated, they looked at each other for a mo- 
ment in silence, clasping hands, and mutually amazed at 
their daring. The Countess had not the heart to blâme 
the young man for the audacity to which she owed this 
first and only instant of happiness. 

' Will you fly with me into the adjacent territory ? ' he 
asked her eagerly. ' I hâve at hand a pair of English 
jennets which will carry us thirty leagues without drawing 

' Oh,' cried she sweetly, *■ where in the world can you 
find .asylum for a daughter of Louis XI ? ' \ j 

' To be sure,' repîiéd the gent}eman,^'beWildered by this 
difficulty, which he had overlooked. 

* Why, then, did you tear me from my husband ? ' she 
asked in some terror. 

' Alas ! ' replied he, *■ I had not thought of the agitation 
I should feel on finding myself by your side, on hearing you 
speak to me. I had conceived of two or three plans, and 
now that I see you, I feel as if everything were achieved.' 

*■ But I am lost,' said the Countess. 

*• We are saved,' replied the gentleman, with the blind 
enthusiasm of love. ' Listen to me ' 

* It will cost me my life,' she went on, letting the tears 
flow which had gathered in her eyes. ' The Count will 
kill me, — this evening, perhaps. But go to the King, tell 
him of ail the torments his daughter has endured for five 
years past. He loved me well when I was a child. He 
was wont to laugh and call me Mary-full-of-grace because 
I was so ugly. Oh, if he could know to what a man he 
gave me, he would be in a terrible rage ! I hâve never 
dared to complain, out of pity for the Count. And, besides, 
how should my voice reach the King's ears ? My con- 

122 Maître Cornélius 

fessor even is a spy for Saint-Vallier. I therefore lent 
myself to this criminal escape, in the hope of enlisting 
a champion. But — dare I trust — Oh ! ' she cried, 
breaking ofF and turning pale ; * hère is the page.' 

The unhappy Countess tried to make a veil of her hands 
to hide her face. 

' Fear nothing,' said the young man ; ' he is on our side. 
You may make use of him in ail security ; he is mine. 
When the Count comes in search of you, he will warn us 
in time. In that confessional,' he went on in an under- 
tone, ' is a canon who is a friend of mine. We will say 
that he has rescued you from the fray and led you, under 
his protection, to this chapel. Thus everything is prepared 
for deceiving Saint-Vallier.' 

On hearing this, the Countess dried away her tears, but 
her brow was clouded with alarm. 

' There is no deceiving him,' said she. ' He will know 
everything this evening. Beware of his revenge. Go to 
Le Plessis, see the King, tell him that ' 

She hesitated, but something gave her courage to tell the 
secrets of her married life, and she went on. 

' Yes, tell him that to secure his mastery over me the 
Count has me bled in both arms and exhausts me. Tell 
him he has dragged me by my hair — tell him I am a 
prisoner — say that ' 

Her heart was bursting, sobs choked her throat, a few 
tears fell again, and in her agitation she allowed the young 
man to kiss her hand while he uttered incohérent phrases. 

' No one may speak to the King, poor child ! Though 
I am the nephew of the grand captain of the crossbowmen, 
I cannot get into Le Plessis this night. My beloved lady, 
my beautiful queen ! — Good God ! how she has suffered ! 
Marie, let me say two words to you or we are lost ! ' 

* What is to become of us ? ' said she. 

The Countess discerned on the blackened wall a picture 
of the Virgin on which the light fell, and she cried out : — 

Maître Cornélius 123 

' Holy Mother of God, give us counsel.' 

* To-night,' the gentleman went on, ' I will be in your 

' How ? ' she asked, very simply. 

They were in such great péril that their fondest words 
seemed bereft of tenderness. 

' I am going this evening to propose myself as an appren- 
tice to Maître Cornélius, the King's treasurer. I hâve 
succeeded in obtaining a letter of introduction which will 
secure his receiving me. His house is close to yours. 
Once under that old rascal's roof, by the help of a silken 
ladder I can find my way to your rooms.' 

' Oh ! ' cried she, petrified with dismay, *■ if you love me, 
do not go to Maître Cornélius.' 

'- Why ! ' cried he, clasping her to his heart with ail 
strength of his youth. 'Then you love me ? ' 

'■ Yes,' said she. * Are you not my only hope ? You 
are a gentleman ; I place my honour in your hands. And 
indeed,' she went on with dignified confidence, ' I am too 
unfortunate for you to betray my trust. But to what end 
is ail this ? Go, leave me to die rather than take up 
your abode with Cornélius. Do you not know that ail his 
apprentices ' 

' Hâve been hanged ? ' said the gentleman, laughing. ' Do 
you suppose that his treasure tempts me ? ' 

' Nay, nay, do not go there ; you will be the victim of 
some sorcery.' 

' I cannot pay too dearly for the honour of serving you,' 
replied he, giving her a look of such ardour as made her 
lower her eyes. 

' And my husband ? ' said she. 

' Hère is something to send him to sleep,' replied the 
young man, taking a small phial out of his belt. 

' Not for ever ? ' said the Countess, trembling. 

The young man's reply was a gesture of horror. 

^ I would hâve challenged him to single combat, if he 

124 Maître Cornélius 

were not so old,' he said. ' But God forbid I should rescue 
you from him by giving him a philter.' 

' Forgive me,' said the Countess, blushing. ' I am cruelly 
punished for my sins. In a moment of despair I did wish 
to kill the Count ; I feared lest you might wish the same. 
My grief is great that I hâve not yet had an opportunity of 
confessing that wicked thought, but I feared that he would 
be told of it and he would be revenged. You are ashamed 
of me ? ' she added, hurt by the young man's silence. *■ I 
deserve your blâme ! ' 

She flung the phial violently to the ground, and it 

'Do not come,' she went on; 'the Count sleeps lightly. 
It is my duty to await the aid of Heaven. And that is 
what I will do.' 

She rose to go. 

' Ah ! ' cried the young man, ' bid me kill him, and I will 
do it, Madame. You will see me this evening.' 

' I was wise to waste that drug,' she replied, her voice 
husky with the joy of finding herself so ardently beloved. 
' The dread of awaking my husband will save us from our- 

' I plight my life to you,' said the youth as he held her 

*■ If the King desires it, the Pope may annul my marriage ; 
then we may be united,' said she, giving him a look fuU 
of rapturous hope. 

' Hère cornes Monseigneur,' cried the page, hurrying up. 

Instantly the gentleman, amazed at the shortness of the 
time he had spent with his mistress, and at the Count's 
swift movements, snatched a kiss which the lady could not 

' This evening ! ' he repeated, as he slipped out of the 

Favoured by the darkness, the lover made his way to 
the great entrance, creeping from pillar to pillar along 

Maître Cornélius 125 

the shaft of shadow cast across the church by each great 

An old canon suddenly stepped out of the confessional 
and seated himself by the Countess, after gently closing the 
gâte, while the page marched gravely up and down outside, 
with the composure of an assassin. 

A glare of light heralded the Count ; escorted by a party 
of friends and retainers carrying torches, he himself held 
his drawn sword. His gloomy gaze seemed to pierce the 
darkness, and search the deepest corners of the cathedral. 

' Monseigneur, Madame is hère,' said the page, going to 
meet him. 

The Lord of Saint-Vallier found his wife kneeling in 
front of the altar, and the canon standing by her, reading 
his breviary. At this sight he shoolc the gâte furiously as 
if to give vent to his rage. 

'What are you doing with a naked sword in hand in 
this church ? ' asked the priest. 

' Father, this gentleman is my husband,' said the Count- 

The priest took the key out of his sleeve and opened the 
chapel gâte. The Count almost involuntarily glanced 
round the confessional, and then went into it ; then he 
stood listening to the silence of the place. 

' Monsieur,' said his wife, ' you owe your thanks to this 
vénérable canon who gave me shelter hère.' 

The Sire de Saint-Vallier turned pale with anger, and 
dared not look at his friends, who had come to laugh at him 
rather than to help him. He sharply replied : — 

' Thank the Lord, Father. I will find some way to repay 

He took his wife by the arm, and without giving her 
time to make her courtesy to the canon, he signed to his 
people and went away, without a word to those who had 
given him their company. There was something ominous 
in his silence. 

126 Maître Cornélius 

Impatient to be at home, and puzzling his brain for some 
means of discovering the truth, he made his way along the 
winding streets which at that time led from the cathedral to 
the porch of the Chancery office, where stood the noble 
mansion then recently built by the Chancellor Juvénal des 
Ursins, on the site of an old fortress given by Charles VII 
to that faithful servant as a reward for his splendid services. 
There began a street which has since been named Rue de 
la Scellerie, in memory of the office of the Great Seal which 
long stood there. It connected old Tours with the borough 
of Châteauneuf, where stood the famous Abbey of Saint- 
Martin, of which many kings were content to be canons. 
For about a hundred years, and after long discussions, this 
borough had been incorporated with the city. 

Many of the streets adjacent to the Rue de la Scellerie, 
in the heart now of modem Tours, were already built ; 
but the finest houses, and more particularly that of the 
Treasurer Xancoings, still standing in the Rue du Com- 
merce, were actually situated in the commune of Château- 

It was past this that the Sire de Saint-Vallier's torch- 
bearers led the way, to that part of the town which lay by 
the river Loire ; he mechanically followed, casting a dark 
glance now and again at his wife and at the page, hoping 
to detect a look of mutual understanding between them 
which might throw some light on this most puzzling ad- 

At last the Count found himself in the Rue du Mûrier, 
where his house was. When the whole party had gone in, 
and the ponderous gâte was shut, profound silence reigned 
in the narrow street where a few magnâtes at that time 
resided ; for this side of the town was near to Le Plessis, the 
King's usual résidence, enabling the courtiers to attend him 
at a moment's notice. The last house in this street was 
the last house in the town, and belonged to Maître Corné- 
lius Hoogworst, an old merchant from Brabant, whom the 

Maître Cornélius 127 

King Louis XI honoured with his confidence in such finan- 
cial transactions as his astute policy required outside his 
realm. For reasons favouring the tyranny he exerted over 
his wife, the Comte de Saint-Vallier had settled in a man- 
sion adjoining Maître Cornélius' house. 

The topography of the buildings will explain the advan- 
tages they offered to a jealous husband. The Count's house, 
known as the Hôtel de Poitiers, had a garden, shut in on 
the north by the wall and moat that had been the boundary 
of the ancient borough of Châteauneuf skirted by the em- 
bankment then lately constructed by Louis XI between Tours 
and Le Plessis. On that side dogs defended the entrance 
to the premises, which, on the east, were divided from the 
neighbouring houses by a large court-yard, and on the west 
backed on to the house occupied by Maître Cornélius. 
The Street front faced south. Thus isolated on three sides, 
the suspicious and wily old Count was safe against ail in- 
truders but the inhabitants of the Brabant house, of which 
the roofs and chimneys were undistinguishable from those 
of the Hôtel de Poitiers. The windows to the street were 
narrow, eut in the stone walls, and barred with iron ; the 
door, low and arched like the entrance to our ancient prisons, 
was strong enough to resist any attack. A stone bench for 
mounting on horseback was close to the porch. 

On seeing the side view of the houses occupied by Maître 
Cornélius and the Comte de Poitiers, it could easily be 
supposed that they had both been built by the same archi- 
tect, and constructed for tyrants. Both, with their sinister 
appearance, resembled little strongholds, and would hâve 
stood a siège for some time against a furious mob. They 
were protected by turrets at the corners, such as lovers of 
antiquities may yet see in some towns where the hammer 
of the destroyer has not found employment. The open- 
ings, which were everywhere narrow, allowed of the shutters 
and doors being constructed of extraordinary strength and 
clamped with iron. The riots and civil wars which were 

128 Maître Cornélius 

so fréquent in those quarrelsome times amply justified thèse 

As six o'clock struck by the clock of the Abbey of Saint- 
Martin, the Countess' lover walked past the Hôtel de Poi- 
tiers, pausing a moment to hear the noise made by the 
Count's retainers over their supper. After glancing up at 
the room he might suppose to be that of his lady-love, he 
went on to the door of the next house. Everywhere on 
his way the young man had heard sounds of mirth from the 
feasters in every house doing honour to the holyday. From 
every window inefFectually shuttered came beams of light ; 
chimneys were smoking, and the savour of roast méats 
gave cheer to the streets. Religious service being over, the 
whole town was revelling, and giving out confused sounds 
which the imagination can fancy better than words can de- 
scribe them. 

But hère there was total silence ; for in thèse two houses 
dwelt passions which never rejoice. Beyond them the 
open country was still ; and hère, under the shadow of the 
abbey towers of Saint-iMartin, the two dumb houses, apart 
from the rest and standing in the darkest part of the tor- 
tuous Street, looked like a leper's home. The building 
opposite to them belonged to certain state criminals, and 
was under séquestration. Any young man could not fail 
to be easily impressed by so sudden a contrast. And, 
indeed, on the verge of embarking in a horribly perilous 
enterprise, the gentleman stood pensive in front of the 
goldsmith's house, recalling the various taies he had 
heard of Maître Cornélius and his proceedings, which 
had inspired the Countess with such lively fears. 

At that period a warrior, a lover even, every man quaked 
at the Word " magie." There were few imaginations that 
could be incredulous of extraordinary facts, or indiffèrent to 
taies of wonder. And this lover of Madame de Saint- 
Vallier (one of Louis XI's daughters by Madame de Sas- 
senage, in Dauphiné), brave as he might be, could not but 

Maître Cornélius 129 

think twice before venturing into a house that was full of 

The history of Maître Cornélius Hoogworst will fully 
account for the confidence he had inspired in the Comte de 
Saint-Vallier, for the lady's terror, and for the hesitancy 
that gave pause to the lover. But to enable the nineteenth 
centurv reader to understand clearly how events apparently 
commonplace had been deemed supernatural, to maice him 
enter into the terrors of that olden time, it is necessary to 
interrupt the narrative and glance at the previous career of 
Maître Cornélius. 

Cornélius Hoogworst, one of the wealthiest merchants 
of Ghent, having incurred the displeasure of Charles, Duke 
of Burgundy, had found a refuge and protection at the Court 
of Louis XI. The King was quite alive to the advantages 
he might dérive from a man in communication with the 
principal houses of Flanders, Venice, and Brabant ; he granted 
to Maître Cornélius letters of nobility and naturalization ; 
nay, he flattered him, — a rare thing with Louis XL And, 
indeed, the Fleming liked the King as well as the King liked 
the Fleming. Crafty, suspicious, avaricious ; equally astute, 
equally well-informed, equally superior to their time, they 
understood each other to perfection ; they dropped and took 
up again with equal readiness, the one his conscience and 
the other his religion; they worshipped the same Virgin — 
one from conviction, the other from flattery ; finally, if we 
may believe the jealous statements of Olivier le Daim and 
Tristan, the King resorted to the goldsmith's house to take 
his pleasure — as Louis XI took it. History has taken 
care to préserve the memory of this monarch's licentious 
tastes, for he was not averse to a debauch. The old Flem- 
ing, no doubt, found it pleasant and profitable to lend him- 
self to his royal patron's caprices and indulgences. 

Cornélius had now lived in Tours for nine years. Dur- 
ing thèse nine years incidents had occurred under his roof 
which made him the object of gênerai exécration, On 

130 Maître Cornélius 

arriving he had spent large sums on the house, with a view 
to securing his treasures. The ingenuity secretly exerted 
on his behalf by the locksmiths of the town, the singular 
précautions he had taken to get them into his house, in 
such a way as to feel sure of their compulsory secrecy, 
were for a long time the subject of a thousand wonderful 
taies which furnished the evening gossip of Touraine. The 
old man's extraordinary devices led to the idea that he was 
possessed of Oriental wealth. The story-tellers of the 
province which was the birthplace of romance in France 
built chambers of gold and precious stones in the Fleming's 
dwelling, never failing to ascribe his immense riches to un- 
holy compacts. 

Cornélius had brought with him originally a couple of 
Flemish varlets, an old woman, and a young apprentice 
of mild and attractive appearance ; this youth served him 
as secretary, cashier, factotum, and messenger. 

In the course of the first year of his résidence at Tours, 
a considérable robbery was effected from his premises. 
Judicial investigation proved that the theft had been com- 
mitted by someone living in the house. The old miser 
had his two men and his apprentice put in prison. The 
young lad was weakly ; he died under torture, still pro- 
testing his innocence. The two men confessed, to escape 
torture; but on being asked by the judge where the stolen 
money was hidden, they were silent ; so, after fresh tortures, 
they were tried, condemned, and hanged. On their way to 
the gallows they still declared that they were guiltless, after 
the manner of ail men to be hanged. 

The town of Tours talked over the strange business for 
many a day. But the criminals were Flemings, so the 
intercst excited in the unfortunate men and the youthful 
clerk soon died out. In those days war and sédition supplied 
perpétuai excitement, and to-day's drama extinguished yes- 
terday's tragedy. 

Maître Cornélius, more afFected by the loss of so large 

Maître Cornélius 131 

a sum than by the death of his three retainers, now lived 
alone with the old woman who was his sister. He obtained 
from the King the privilège of using the state couriers for 
his private business, put up his mules with a muleteer in 
the neighbourhood, and thenceforth lived in perfect solitude, 
seeing scarce anyone but the King, and transacting his 
business through the médium of the Jews — crafty arithme- 
ticians, who served him faithfully for the sake of his omnipo- 
tent interest. 

Some time after this event, the King himself placed 
with his old tor^onnier a young orphan in whom he took a 
great interest. Louis XI commonly called Maître Corné- 
lius by the old name of torçonnier^ which, in the reign of 
Saint-Louis, had meant an usurer, a tax-collector, a man 
who squeezed money out of folks by extortionate means. 
The Word tortionnaire^ a légal term still in use, in fact, 
explains the word torçonnier^ which was often written tor- 
tionneur. This poor lad devoted himself to the goldsmith's 
interest, succeeded in satisfying his master and winning his 
favour. One winter's night the diamonds placed in Cor- 
nélius' keeping by the King of England were stolen, and 
suspicion fell on the orphan lad. Louis XI was ail the 
more severe with him because he had answered for his 
honesty. So, after a summary inquiry, the hapless boy was 
hanged before the Provost Marshal. 

Nobody dared go to learn the arts of banking and ex- 
change from Maître Cornélius. Nevertheless two young 
men of the town, youths of honour and anxious to win a 
fortune, one after the other entered his service. Large 
robberies from the treasurer's house at once ensued ; the 
circumstances of the crimes, and the way in which they 
were carried out, pointed clearly to some collusion between 
the thieves and the inmates of the house ; it was impossible 
that the new-comers should escape accusation. The Flem- 
ing, more and more vindictive and suspicious, at once laid 
the matter before the King, who placed the cases in his 

132 Maître Cornélius 

Provost's hands. Each was promptly tried, and more 
promptly punished. 

But the patriotism of the citizens was opposed to Tris- 
tan's swift proceedings. Guilty or no, the two young men 
were regarded as victims, and Cornéliu s as a ru ffian. The 
two familles thrown into mourning were persons in high 
esteem, their complaints met with sympathy, and step by 
step they succeeded in persuading everyone to believe in 
the innocence of ail the men that the King's treasurer had 
sent to the gallows. Some declared that this cruel miser 
was imitating the King and trying to set terror and the 
gibbet between himself and the world ; that he had never 
been robbed at ail ; that thèse horrible exécutions were 
brought about by cold self-interest ; and that he only 
wanted to be quit of ail alarms about his treasure. 

The immédiate resuit of thèse popular rumours was to 
isolate Cornélius. The good folks of Tours treated him 
as one plague-stricken, spoke of him as the extortioner, and 
called his house La Malemaison (the House of 111). Even 
if the usurer could hâve found a youth bold enough to take 
service with him, the inhabitants of the town would hâve 
hindered it by their sayings. The most favourable opinions 
about Maître Cornélius were those expressed by men who 
regarded him only as a sinister personage. In some he 
inspired involuntary terrors, in others, the deep respect that 
is always paid to unlimited power or great wealth ; to some 
he had the attraction of mystery. His mode of life, his 
countenance, and the King's favour justified every rumour 
of which he was the subject. 

Since the death of his persecutor, the Duke of Burgundy, 
Cornélius frequently travelled in foreign parts, and during 
his absence the King had his house guarded by a company 
of his Scottish guard. This royal care led the courtiers to 
suppose that the old man had left his fortune to Louis XL 
The Fleming rarely went out ; the gentlemen about the 
Court visited him frequently ; he was ready enough to lend 

Maître Cornélius 133 

them money, but he was whimsical. On certain days he 
would not give them a sou Parisis ; on the morrow he 
would ofFer them enormous sums, always at a high rate of 
interest and on good security. He was, however, a good 
Catholic, and attended the services regularly; but he went 
to Saint-Martin at a very early hour, and as he had pur- 
chased a chapel in perpetuity, there, as elsewhere, he was 
divided from other Christians. 

A proverb which became popular at this period and sur- 
vived at Tours for a long time was the saying : ' You hâve 
crossed the usurer's path; woe will befall you.' ' You hâve 
crossed the usurer's path ' accounted for sudden ailments, 
involuntary dépression, and the evil turns of fortune. Even 
at Court Cornélius was credited with the fatal influence 
which, in Italy, Spain, and the East, superstition has named 
the Evil Eye. 

But for the terrible power of Louis XI, which was ex- 
tended like a shield over this house, the populace would, on 
the sienderest pretext, hâve demolished the Malemaison of 
the Rue du Mûrier. And yet it was by Cornélius that the 
first mulberry trees in Tours had been planted, and at that 
time the inhabitants had regarded him as a good genius. 
Who then may trust to popular favour ? 

Certain gentlemen who had met Maître Cornélius in for- 
eign lands had been amazed by his good humour. At Tours 
he was constantly gloomy and absent-minded ; but he always 
came back there. Some inexplicable attraction always 
brought him home to his dismal house in the Rue du Mûrier. 
Like the snail whose life is inséparable from that of his shell, 
he confessed to the King that he never felt so happy as 
behind the time-eaten stones, the bolts of his little bastille, 
albeit he knew that in the event of Louis' death it would 
be the most dangerous spot on earth to him. 

'The devil is amusing himself at the expense of our 
friend the torçonnier^ said Louis XI to his barber, a few 
days before the festival of AU Saints. ' He complains of 

134 Maître Cornélius 

having been robbed again ! But there is nobody this time 
for him to hang — unless he hangs himself. If the old 
vagabond did not corne to ask me whether I had carried 
ofF by mistake a chain of rubies he had been meaning to 
sell me ? By the Mass ! I do not steal what I hâve only 
to take, said I.' 

*■ And was he frightened ? ' asked the barber. 

' Misers are afraid but of one thing,' replied the King. 
*■ My gossip the usurer knows full well that I should not 
flay him for nothing ; otherwise I should be unjust, and I 
bave never donc any thing that was not just and necessary.' 

*And yet the old hunks cheats you,' replied the barber. 

' You only wish that were true, heh ? ' said the King, 
with a cunning leer at the barber. 

'Nay, Sire,' replied the man, with an oath ; *but there 
would be a snug fortune to divide between you and the 

' That will do,' said the King. ' Do not put mischief 
into my head. My gossip is a more faithful friend than 
ail the men whose fortunes I hâve made — possibly because 
he owes me nothing.' 

Thus, for two years past, Cornélius lived alone with his 
sister, who was believed to be a witch. A tailor who lived 
hard by declared that he had often seen her at night wait- 
ing on the roof to fly off to her Sabbath. This statement 
was ail the more extraordinary because the old miser shut 
his sister up in a room of which the windows were barred 
with iron. 

Cornélius in his old âge, fearing more and more that men 
should rob him, had conceived a hatred for ail the world 
excepting the King, whom he esteemed highly. He had 
sunk into deep misanthropy ; but, in his passion for gold, 
the assimilation of the métal with his very substance had 
become more and more complète, and, as is commonly the 
case with misers, his avarice increased with âge. He was 
suspicious even of his sister, though she was perhaps more 

Maître Cornélius 135 

avaricious and thrifty than himself, and outdid him in 
sordid inventiveness. There was something mysterious 
and questionable in their way of life. The old woman so 
rarely took bread from the baker, and was so seldom seen 
at market, that the least credulous observers had at last 
attributed to thèse strange beings the knowledge of some 
occult means of sustaining life. Some, who meddled in 
alchemy, said that Maître Cornélius could make gold. 
The learned declared that he had discovered the universal 
panacea. And to most of the country folk, when the 
townspeople spoke of him, he was a chimerical créature, 
so that they would come out of curiosity to stare at his 

The young gentleman, sitting on a bench by the house 
facing that of Maître Cornélius, looked at the Malemaison 
and the Hôtel de Poitiers by turns. The moon shed high 
lights on the salient parts, lending colour by the contrast 
of light and shade on the sculpture in relief. The play of 
this capricious pale light gave a somewhat sinister expres- 
sion to both houses. Nature seemed to lend herself to the 
superstitious notions that hung about the place. 

The gentleman recalled ail the many traditions which 
made Cornélius an object at once of curiosity and dread. 
Though the véhémence of his passion confirmed him in his 
détermination to get into the house and to stay there as 
long as might be necessary to carry out his projects, he 
hesitated before taking this final step, though" well aware 
that he should do so. But who, in the critical hours of 
life, does not love to listen to presentiments and play see- 
saw, as it were, over the abyss of futurity ? As a lover 
worthy of his love, the youth feared lest he should perish 
before the Countess' love should grâce his life. 

This secret hesitancy was so painfully absorbing that he 
did not feel the cold wind that blew round his legs and 
against the projecting masses of the houses. If he entered 

136 Maître Cornélius 

the goldsmith's service, he must renounce his name, as he 
had aiready doffed his handsome garb as a nobleman. In 
the event of disaster, he could make no appeal to the privi- 
lèges of his birth or the protection of his friends but at the 
cost of destroying the Comtesse de Saint-Vallier beyond ail 
rescue. If the old lord suspected her of having a lover, he 
was capable of roasting her in an iron cage by a slow fire, 
of torturing her to death day by day in the depths of some 

As he looked down on the wretched clothes in which 
he was disguised, the gentleman was ashamed of his own 
appearance. To behold his black leather belt, his clumsy 
shoes, his wrinkled hose, his frieze breeches, and his grey 
cloth jerkin, he might be the follower of some mean 
sergeant of the law. To a nobleman of the fifteenth 
century it was as bad as death to play the part of pauper 
townsman and renounce the privilèges of his rank. Still, 
to climb the roof of the mansion where his mistress sat 
weeping ; to creep down the chimney or run along the 
parapet, crawling from gutter to gutter till he reached her 
window ; to risk his life, if only he might sit by her side 
on a silken cushion, in front of a good fire, during the 
slumbers of that sinister husband, whose snore would 
enhance their rapture ; to defy heaven and earth; to 
exchange the most audacious embrace; to speak words 
which would inevitably be punished by death, or at least 
by a bloody struggle, — ail thèse enchanting visions, with 
the romantic périls of the adventure, brought him to a 
décision. The smaller the prize of his endeavour, — were 
it only to be that he should once more kiss his lady's hand, 
— the more determined was he to dare everything, prompted 
by the chivalrous and impassioned spirit of the time. Then 
he did not really suppose that the Countess would dare to 
refuse him the sweetest reward of love, in the midst of 
such mortal dangers. The adventure was too perilous, too 
impossible, not to be carried through to the end. 

Maître Cornélius 137 

At this juncture every bell in the town rang the curfew. 
The lavv had fallen into disuse, but in the provinces the 
hour was still toUed, for customs die slowly in the country. 
Though the lights were not put out, the captains of the 
watch stretched chains across the streets. Many doors 
were bolted and barred ; the steps of a few belated citizens 
were heard in the distance as they made their way, sur- 
rounded by their foUowers, armed to the teeth and carry- 
ing lanterns ; and then, ère long, the town, gagged as it 
were, seemed to fall asleep, fearing no attack from malefac- 
tors, unless by way of the roof. 

And at that time the house-tops were a recognised high- 
way during the night. The streets were so narrow in 
country towns, and even in Paris, that robbers could jump 
from one side to the other. This dangerous game was a 
constant amusement to King Charles IX in his youth, if 
we may believe the memoirs of the time. 

Fearing to be too late in presenting himself to Maître 
Cornélius, the young gentleman was on the point of rising 
to knock at the door of the House of Evil, when, on look- 
ing at it, his attention was riveted by a sort of vision, 
such as the writers of the day would hâve called diabolical. 
He rubbed his eyes as if to clear them, and a thousand 
différent émotions flashed through his brain. On each 
side of the door he beheld a face framed between the bars 
of a sort of loophole. At first he supposed thèse faces to 
be grotesque masks carved in stone, so wrinkled were they, 
so angular, twisted, exaggerated, and motionless ; they were 
tanned, — that is to say, brown j but the cold and the 
moonlight enabled him to detect the slight white cloud 
of thin breath coming out of the two blue noses, and at 
last he could make out in each haggard face, under shaggy 
eyebrows, a pair of china-blue eyes that sparkled with a 
pale light, like those of a wolf crouching in a thicket when 
he hears the hounds in full cry. The uneasy gleam of 
those eyes rested so fixedly on him, that, after meeting it 

ijS Maître Cornélius 

during the moment when he was studving thèse singular 
objects, he felt like a bird put up by a sporting dog ; a 
fevered spasm clutched at his heart, but was at once con- 
trolled. Thèse two faces were beyond a doubt those of 
Cornélius and his sister. 

The gentleman at once affected to be examining the 
Street and to be in search of a dwelling of which the 
address was written on a card that he took out of his 
pocket, trying to read it by the moonlight j he then went 
straight up to the extortioner's door and gave three knocks, 
which echoed within the house as if this were the portai 
of a cellar. A small light became visible, and an eye was 
applied to a small and strongly barred wicket. 

' Who is there ? ' 

' A friend, sent by Oosterlinck of Bruges.' 

' What do you want ? ' 

' To be let in.' 

' Your name ? ' 

' Philippe Goulenoire.' 

' Hâve you letters of introduction ? * 

' Hère they are.' 

' Put them in through the box.' 

' Where is it ? ' 

' To the left.' 

Philippe Goulenoire put the letter into a slit in an iron 
chest below a loophole window. 

*■ The devil ! ' thought he. ' It is évident that the King 
cornes hère, for as many précautions are observed as he 
takes at Le Plessis.' 

He waited in the street about a quarter of an hour 
longer. At the end of that time he heard the old man say 
to his sister : — 

' Shut the traps inside the door.' 

Then a clatter of chains and iron echoed through the 
porch. Philippe heard bolts drawn and locks creak ; tïnally 
a small, low door, sheathed with iron, opened so as to 

Maître Cornélius 139 

afFord the smallest chink through which a man might 
squeeze. At the risk of tearing his clothes, Philippe 
crept rather than walked into the Malemaison. A tooth- 
less old woman with a face like a fiddle, and eyebrows like 
the handles of a cauldron, who could not hâve put a nut 
between the tip of her nose and her chin, colourless, sal- 
low, with hollow temples and an appearance of being con- 
structed of nothing but bone and sinew, silently led the 
stranger into a low sitting-room, while Cornélius prudently 
kept in the rear. 

' Be seated there,' said she to Philippe, pointing to a 
three-legged stool that stood in the corner of a huge chim- 
ney-place of carved stone, though there was no fire on the 

On the opposite side of this fireplace was a walnut- 
wood table with twisted legs, on which there were an egg 
in a plate and ten or twelve hard strips of dry bread eut 
with parsimonious exactitude. Two stools, on one of 
which the old woman seated herself, showed that the good 
folks were in the act of supping. 

Cornélius went to close two iron shutters, protecting the 
peepholes, no doubt, through which they had so long been 
gazing into the street ; then he came back to his place. 
Philippe, as he called himself, now saw the brother and 
sister take it in turns, with perfect gravity, to dip a strip 
of bread into the egg, with the same précision as soldiers 
use in dipping their spoon into the tin pot ; but they 
scarcely coloured them, in order that the egg might last 
out the full allowance of strips of bread. This was per- 
formed in perfect silence. 

While he ate, Cornélius studied the sham apprentice 
with as much care and shrewdness as if he had been made 
of gold bezants. Philippe, feeling an icy cloak fall on his 
shoulders, was tempted to look about him ; but, with the 
prudence born of a love-adventure, he took care not to 
cast even a furtive glance at the walls, for he was well 

140 Maître Cornélius 

aware that if Cornélius saw him in the act he would not 
keep an inquisitive man in the house. So he restricted 
himself to fixing a modest eye now on the egg, now 
on the old maid, and anon he contemplated his future 

Louis' treasurer resembled that monarch ; he 'had even 
caught some of his tricks, as not unfrequently happens 
when people live together in intimacy. The Fleming's 
thick eyebrows almost hid his eyes ; but when he raised 
them a little his glance was bright, penetrating, and fuU 
of energy, — the look of men who are used to be silent, 
and to whom concentration of mind is a familiar habit. 
His thin lips, finely puckered with upright lines, gave him 
a keenly subtle expression. The lower part of his face, 
indeed, vaguely suggested a fox's muzzle ; still, a lofty and 
prominent brow, deeply furrowed, seemed to reveal some 
great and fine qualities, — a noble soûl whose flights had 
been checked by expérience, while the bitter lessons of life 
had quenched it and thrust it down into the deepest secret 
places of this strange being. He was certainly no ordinary 
miser, and his passion no doubt covered intense joys and 
secret conceptions. 

*■ At what rate are Venetian sequins doing ? ' he suddenly 
asked his intending apprentice. 

' At three-quarters, at Bruges ; at one, at Ghent.* 

'What is the freight on the Scheldt ? ' 

' Three sous Parisis.' 

* Nothing new in Ghent ? ' 

*Liéven d'Herde's brother is ruined.' 

' Indeed ! ' 

After allowing this exclamation to escape him, the old 
man covered his knees with the skirt of his dalmatic, a sort 
of robe of black velvet open in front, with wide sleeves and 
no collar. The magnificent material was shiny with wear. 
This relie of the handsome dress he had been wont to 
wear as président of the tribunal of Parchons — a position 

Maître Cornélius 14I 

which had brought upon him the Duke of Burgundy's 
enmity — was no more than a rag. 

Philippe was not cold ; he was bathed in sweat, trembling 
lest he should be required to answer any further questions- 
So far the brief information he had extracted the day before 
from a Jew, whose life he had once saved, had proved suffi- 
cient, thanks to his good memory, and to the Jew's thorough 
knowledge of the money-lender's manners and habits. But 
the young gentleman who, in the first flush of enterprise, 
had been full of confidence, now began to perceive the many 
difficulties of the business. The terrible Fleming's solemn 
gravity and perfect coolness were telling on him. And 
besides, he felt himself under lock and key, and could pic- 
ture ail the Provost's cords at Maître Cornélius' command. 

' Hâve you supped ? ' said the miser, in a tone which 
plainly meant ' Do not sup.' 

In spite of her brother's tone, the old woman was 
startled ; she looked at their young inmate as if to gauge 
the capacity of the stomach she would be expected to fill, 
and then said with a false smile : — 

' You hâve not got your name for nothing, for your hair 
and moustache are blacker than the devil's tail.' 

' I hâve supped,' replied he. 

' Very well,' said the miser; 'then come to see me again 
to-morrow. I hâve long been accustomed to dispense 
with the services of an apprentice. Besides, the night 
brings good counsel.' 

' Nay, by Saint-Bavon ! Monsieur, I am from Flanders. 
I know nobody hère, the chains are up. I shall be cast 
into prison. However,' he added, frightened at the eager- 
ness with which he had spoken, ' of course, if it suits your 
convenience, I will go.' 

The oath had a strange efFect on the old Fleming. 

'Well, well. By Saint-Bavon ! you shall sleep hère.' 

'But ' his sister began in dismay. 

' Silence,' said Cornélius. ' Oosterlinck, in his letter, 

142 Maître Cornélius 

answers for this youth. Hâve we not a hundred thousand 
livres in hand belonging to Oosterlinck ? ' he whispered in 
her ear ; ' and is not that good security ? ' 

' And supposing he were to steal the Bavarian jewels ? 
He looks far more like a thief than a Fleming.' 

' Hark ! ' exclaimed the old man, listening. 

The two misers listened. Vaguely, an instant after the 
hush, a noise of men's steps was heard, far away on the 
further side of the city moat. 

'It is the round of the watch at Le Plessis,' said the sister. 

' Come, give me the key of the apprentice's room,' Cor- 
nélius went on. 

The old maid was about to take up the lamp. 

* What, are you going to leave us together without a 
light ? ' cried Cornélius, with évident meaning. ' Cannot 
you move about in the dark at your âge? Is it so difficult 
to find that key ? ' 

The old woman understood the meaning behind thèse 
words, and went away. 

As he looked after this extraordinary créature, just as 
she reached the door, Philippe Goulenoire could cast a 
furtive glance round the room unobserved by his master. 
It was wainscoted with oak half-way up, and the walls 
were hung with yellow leather, patterned with black ; but 
what most struck him was a firelock musket with its long 
spring dagger attached. This new and terrible weapon 
lay close by Cornélius. 

' How do you propose to earn your living ? ' asked the 

' I hâve but little money,' replied Goulenoire, ' but I 
know some good trade recipes. If you will give me no 
more than a sou on every mark I earn for you, I shall be 

'A sou! a sou!' cried the miser; 'but that is a great 

Hereupon the old hag came in again. 

Maître Cornélius 143 

' Corne,' said Cornélius to Philippe. 

They went out into the entrance, and mounted a newel 
stair that ran up a turret close by the side of the living- 
room. On the first floor the young man paused. 

' Nay, nay,' said Cornélius. 'The devil ! why, thèse 
are the premises where the King takes his pleasure.' 

The architect had constructed the lodging for the appren- 
tice under the conical roof of the staircase tower. It was 
a small circular room, with stone walls, cold and devoid of 
ornament. This tower stood in the middle of the front 
to the court-yard, which, as usual in provincial towns, was 
narrow and dark. Beyond and through the iron gratings 
of an arcade, there was a meagre garden, or rather a mul- 
berry orchard, tended no doubt by Cornélius himself. 

Ail this the youth could see through the loopholes in 
the turret, by the light of the moon, which happily shone 
brightly. A truckle-bed, a stool, a stone pitcher, and a 
rickety chest formed the furniture of this cage. The light 
was admitted through tiny square slits at regular intervais 
below the outer cornice of the structure, forming its orna- 
mentation, no doubt, in character with this pleasing style of 

' Hère is your room. It is simple and strong. There 
is everything needed for sleep. Good-night. Do not 
leave it as the others did.' 

After giving his new apprentice a parting glance fraught 
with many meanings, Cornélius locked and double-locked 
the door, and carried away the key. He went down-stairs 
again, leaving his man as much at his wit's end as a bell- 
founder who hnds his mould empty. Alone, without a light, 
sitting on a stool in this little garret, which his four pre- 
cursors had quitted only for the gallows, the young fellow 
felt like a wild animal caught in a sack. He sprang on to 
the stool, and stood on tiptoe to look out of the little loop- 
holes through which the white light came in. He could 
thence see the Loire, the beautiful hills of Saint-Cyr, and 

144 Maître Cornélius 

the gloomy splendeur of Le Plessis, where a few lights 
twinkled from the deep-set Windows. Further away lay 
the fair fields of Touraine and the silvery reaches of the 
great river. Every détail of the pleasing landscape had at 
this moment an unwonted charm. Window-panes, water- 
pools, the roofs of the houses, glittered like gems in the 
tremulous moonbeams. 

The young man could not altogether suppress some 
sweet but pain fui feeling. 

*■ If it should be for the last time,' thought he. 

And he stood there, already tasting the terrible émotion 
his adventure had promised, and abandoning himself to the 
fears of a prisoner who still has a gleam of hope. Every 
difficulty added to his mistress' beauty. She was to him 
no longer a woman, but a supernatural being, seen through 
the hot vapours of désire. 

A faint cry, which he fancied proceeded from the Hôtel 
de Poitiers, brought him to himself and to a sensé of his 
situation. As he sat down on the bed to meditate on the 
matter, he heard a soft rustle on the winding stair. He 
listened with ail his ears ; and presently the words, ' He is 
in bed,' spoken by the old woman, reached his ear. 

By an accident of which the architect was unaware, the 
least Sound below was echoed in the turret room, so that 
the sham apprentice did not lose one of the movements of 
the miser and his sister, who were spying on him. He un- 
dressed, got into bed, and pretended to sleep, spending the 
time during which his two hosts remained on the watch on 
the turret steps, in devising the means for getting out of 
his prison and into the Hôtel de Poitiers, By about ten 
o'clock Cornélius and his sister, convinced that their appren- 
tice was asleep, went to their own rooms. 

The young man listened keenly to the duU remote sounds 
made by the Flemings, and fancied he could guess where 
they slept ; they must, he thought, occupy the whole of 
the second floor. 

Maître Cornélius 145 

^ As in ail houses of that date, that floor was in the roof, 
with dormer windows richly ornamented with carved stone 
pediments. The roof was also edged by a sort of parapet, 
concealing the gutters for conducting the rain-water to the 
spouts, mimicking crocodiles' heads, which shed it into the 
Street. The youth, who had studied his bearings as cun- 
ningly as a cat could hâve done, expected to find a means 
of getting from the tower on to the roof, and climbing 
along the gutter as far as Madame de Saint- Vallier's win- 
dow, by the help of the waterspouts ; but he had not known 
that the windows of the turret would be so small that it 
was impossible to pass through them, So he resolved to 
get out on the roof by the window that lighted the second- 
floor landing of the turret stair. 

To exécute this bold scheme, he must get out of his 
room, and Cornélius had the key. The young gentleman 
had taken the précaution of arming himself with one of the 
daggers, which were at that time in use for dealing the death- 
blow, the coup de grace^ in single combat, when the adver- 
sary prayed that it might end. This horrible weapon had 
one edge as sharp as a razor, and the other toothed like 
a saw, with the teeth turned in a contrary sensé to the thrust 
as it entered the body. The youth now proposed to use 
this dagger as a saw to eut the lock out from the wooden 
door. Happily for him, the staple proved to be attached to 
the inner side of the lintel by four large screws. By the 
help of his poniard he succeeded, not without difficulty, in 
unscrewing the staple which kept him a prisoner, and he 
carefully laid the screws on the chest. 

By midnight he was free, and crept down-stairs without 
his shoes, to reconnoitre the ground. He was not a little 
surprised to find an open door to a passage leading to sev- 
eral rooms, and he saw at the end of it a window opening 
on to the V-shaped space between the roofs of the Hôtel 
de Poitiers and that of the Malemaison, which met hère. 
Nothing could express his joy, unless it were the vow he 

146 Maître Cornélius 

forthwith made to the Holy Virgin to found a mass in her 
honour, at the famous parish church of Escrignoles. After 
studying from thence the tall and vast chimneys of the 
Hôtel de Poitiers, he went back again to fetch his weapon ; 
but he now saw with a terrified shudder that there was a 
bright light on the stairs, and perceived Cornélius in his old 
dalmatic, carrying his lamp, his eyes wide open and fixed 
on the corridor, while he stood like a spectre at the entrance. 

' If I open the window and leap out on the roof, he will 
hear me,' thought the young man. 

But the terrible Fleming was coming on — coming as 
the hour of death steals on the criminal. In this extremity, 
Goulenoire, his wits quickened by love, recovered his prés- 
ence of mind ; he shrank into the recess of a door, squeezing 
himself into the corner, and waited for the usurer to pass 
him. As soon as Cornélius, holding his lamp before him, 
was just at the angle where the youth could make a draught 
by blowing, he pufFed out the light. 

Cornélius muttered a Dutch oath and some incohérent 
words ; but he turned back. The gentleman then flew up 
to his room, seized his weapon, ran back to the thrice-blessed 
window, opened it cautiously, and sprang out on to the roof. 

Once free and under the sky, he almost fainted with joy. 
The excitement of danger or the audacity of his enterprise 
perhaps caused his agitation; victory is often as full of 
risk as the battle. He leaned against a parapet, trembling 
with satisfaction, and asked himself: — 

' Now, by which of those chimneys can I get into her 
room ? ' 

He looked at them ail. With the instinct of a lover, he 
touched them by turns to feel in which there had been 
a fire. When he had made up his mind, the gallant youth 
fixed his dagger firmly in the joint between two stones, 
attached his ropc-ladder, and threw it down the chimney; 
and then, without a qualm, trusting to his good blade, 
climbed down to his mistress. He knew not whether the 

Maître Cornélius 147 

Comte de Saint-V allier were asleep or awake, but he was 
fully bent on clasping the Countess in his arms even if it 
should cost two men their life. He gently set foot on the 
still warni ashes ; he yet more gently stooped down and 
saw the Countess seated in an arm-chair. 

By the light of the lamp, pale and trembling with joy, 
the timid woman pointed to Saint-Vallier in bed, a few 
yards ofF. You may suppose that their burning and silent 
kiss found no écho but in their hearts. 

By nine next morning, just as Louis XI was coming 
out of chapel, after attending mass, he found Maître 
Cornélius in his path. 

'Good luck, Gossip,' said he, curtly, as he pulled his 
cap straight. 

'■ Sire, I will gladly pay a thousand gold crowns for a 
moment's speech of your Majesty, seeing that I hâve dis- 
covered the thief who stole the ruby chain and ail the 

*Let us hear this,' said Louis XI, coming out into the 
court-yard of Le Plessis, followed by his treasurer, by 
Coyctier his physician, by Olivier le Daim, and the cap- 
tain of the Scottish Guard. ' Tell me your business. We 
are to hâve another man hanged for you, then ? Hère, 
Tristan ! ' 

The Provost Marshal, who was marching up and down 
the court-yard, came up slowly, like a dog proud of his 
fidelity. The group paused under a tree. The King sat 
down on a bench ; the courtiers formed a circle round him. 

' Sire, I bave been fairly trapped by a pretended Fleming,' 
said Cornélius. 

' He must be a wily knave indeed, then,' said the King, 
shaking his head. 

' Aye, truly,' replied the goldsmith. ' But I am not sure 
that he might not bave beguiled you even. How was I to 
suspect a poor wight recommended to me by Oosterlinck, 

148 Maître Cornélius 

a man for whom I hold a hundred thousand livres ? Nay, 
but I will wager that the Jew's seal is a forgery. In 
short, Sire, this morning I found myself robbed of the 
jewels you admired for their beauty. They hâve been 
stolen from me, Sire! The Elector of Bavaria's jewels 
stolen ! The villains respect no man. They would rob 
you of your kingdom if you were not on the alert. Forth- 
with I went up to the room where I had bestowed this 
apprentice, who is certainly a past master of thieving. 
This time proofs are not lacking. He had unscrewed the 
staple of the lock; but on his return, the moon having set, 
he could not lay hands on ail the screws. Thus, by good 
hap, as I went in, I trod on a screw. He was asleep, the 
varlet, for he was tired out. Fancy this, gentlemen; he 
had descended into my room by the chimney. To-morrow, 
or rather this evening, I will hâve it hot for him. We 
always learn something from thèse villains. He had about 
him a silken ladder, and his clothes bear the traces of his 
travelling over the roofs and through the chimney. He 
thought to live with me and bring me to ruin, the bold 
varlet ! Now, where has he buried the jewels ? The 
country-folk saw him early in the morning coming back 
across the roofs. He had accomplices waiting for him on 
the dyke you made. Ah, my lord, you are yourself the 
accomplice of thieves who come in boats ; and, snap ! 
they carry away what they will, and no traces left ! How- 
ever, we hâve the leader, a daring scapegrace, a rascal who 
would do crédit to a gentleman's mother. Aye, he will 
look well hanging on a gibbet, and with a screw of the 
torture-chamber he will confess ail. And is not this a 
matter for the honour of your rule ? There should be no 
robbers under so great a King ! ' 

But the King had long since ceased to listen. He 
was sunk in one of the gloomy moods that became fré- 
quent with him during the later years of his life. Silence 

Maître Cornélius 149 

* This is your business, man,' said he, at length, to 
Tristan. ' Go and search out this matter.' 

He rose, and went forward a few steps ; his courtiers 
left him to himself. He then perceived Cornélius, who, 
mounted on his mule, was going ofF in company with the 

*■ And the thousand crowns ? ' said the King. 

*■ Nay, Sire, you are too great a King ! No sum of 
money could pay for your justice ' 

Louis XI smiled. The courtiers envied the old Flem- 
ing his bold tongue and many privilèges ; he rode ofF at 
a good pace, down the avenue of mulberry-trees that led 
from Le Plessis to Tours. 

Exhausted by fatigue, the young gentleman was, in fact, 
sleeping soundly. On his return from his adventure of 
gallantry, he had ceased to feel such spirit and ardour for 
defending himself against distant and perhaps imaginary 
dangers, as had inspired him to rush on perilous delights. 
So he had postponed till morning the task of cleaning his 
soiled raiment and effacing the traces of his success. It 
vi^as a great blunder, but one towards vv^hich everything 
tended. When, in the absence of the moon, which had 
set while he was happy with his love, he failed to find ail 
the screws of the vexatious staple, he lost patience. Then, 
with the happy recklessness of a man full of contentment, 
or longing for rest, he trusted to the good luck of his fate, 
which had so far served him so well. He did, indeed, 
make a sort of bargain with himself, in virtue of which he 
was to wake at daybreak ; but the events of the day and 
the excitements of the night hindered him from keeping 
the promise. Happiness is oblivious. The goldsmith 
seemed less formidable to the young gentleman as he lay 
on the hard truckle-bed whence so many of his prede- 
cessors had risen only to go to exécution, and this reck- 
lessness was his undoing. 

While the King's treasurer was on his way back from 

150 ' Maître Cornélius 

Plessis-lez-Tours, escorted by the Provost and his terrible 
bowmen, the self-styled Goulenoire was being watched by 
the old sister, who sat knitting stockings for Cornélius 
on one of the steps of the turret stair, never heeding the 

The youth, meanwhile, was prolonging the joys of that 
enchanting night, ignorant of the disaster which was coming 
down on him at a gallop. He was dreaming. His dreams, 
like ail the visions of youth, were so vividly coloured that 
he was unconscious of where illusion began and reality 
ended. He saw himself on a cushion at the lady's feet ; 
his head on her knees warm with affection ; he was listen- 
ing to the taie of the persécutions and petty tyranny the 
Count had so long inflicted on his wife ; he wept with 
the Countess, who was, in fact, of ail his natural children 
the daughter Louis XI loved best ; he promised her that 
he would go on the morrow and reveal ail the facts to 
that terrible father. They had settled everything to their 
mind, annulling the marriage and imprisoning the husband, 
while they themselves might at any moment be the vic- 
tims of his sword if the least sound had roused him. But 
in his dream the light of the lamp, the flame in their eyes, 
the hues of stufFs and tapestries, were brighter than in fact; 
a richer perfume exhaled from their night garments ; there 
was more love in the air, more glow in the atmosphère, 
than there had been in reality. And the Marie of his 
dream was far less obdurate than the living Marie had 
been, to the languishing looks, the insinuating prayers, 
the magical questioning, the expressive silence, the volup- 
tuous solicitation, the affected generosity which make the 
first moments of passion so fiercely ardent, and rouse lovers' 
soûls to increased intoxication at each step in their love. 

In accordance with the jurisprudence of love in those 
days Marie de Saint-Vallier granted her adorer the super- 
ficial privilèges of la petite oie ; that is to say, she willingly 
allowed him to kiss her feet, her robe, her hands, and her 

Maître Cornélius 151 

throat ; she confessed her love ; she accepted her lover's 
attentions and vows ; she would permit him to die for her ; 
she allowed herself to encourage an intoxication to which 
this half reserve, severe and often cruel as it was, gave added 
heat; but she was herself immovable, and would promise 
the highest reward of love only as the price of her deliver- 
ance. To annul a marriage in those days recourse to 
Rome was necessary. The parties needed the dévotion of 
a few cardinals, and had to appear in the présence of the 
Sovereign Pontiff armed with the King's protection. Marie 
wished to owe her liberty to love, that she might resign it 
into love's hands. 

In those days almost every woman had power enough so 
to establish her empire in the heart of a man as to make his 
passion the history of his whole life, the mainspring of the 
highest résolve. But then ladies could be numbered in 
France ; they were so many sovereigns ; they had a noble 
pride ; their lovers belonged to them rather than they to the 
men ; their love often cost much bloodshed, and to be 
accepted by them dangers had to be faced. 

But in his dream Marie was merciful, and deeply 
touched by the dévotion of her beloved, and she made little 
résistance to the handsome youth's véhément passion. 
Which was the real Marie ? Did the so-called apprentice 
see the true woman in his dream ? Was the lady he had 
found in the Hôtel de Poitiers merely wearing a mask of 
virtue ? The question is a délicate one, and the honour 
of the ladies requires that it should remain undecided. 

At the very moment when the dream-Marie was about 
perhaps to forego her high dignity as his mistress, the lover 
felt himself gripped by an iron hand, and the sharp tones 
of the Provost thus addressed him : — 

' Come, you midnight Christian, who go feeling about 
for heaven. Come, wake up ! ' 

Philippe saw Tristan's swarthy face and recognised his 
sardonic smile ; and then on the steps of the spiral stairs he 

152 Maître Cornélius 

saw Cornélius and his sister, and behind them the Provost's 
men-at-arms. At this sight, at the aspect of ail those dia- 
bolical countenances expressing hatred or else the vile curi- 
osity of men accustomed to the hangman's ofEce, Philippe 
Goulenoire sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. 

' 'Sdeath ! ' cried he, snatching his dagger from under 
his pillow. *■ It is time to be trying knife-play ! ' 

* Oh, ho ! ' cried Tristan. ' I smell the gentleman ! It 
strikes me that we hâve hère Georges d'Estouteville, 
nephew to the grand captain of the crossbowmen.' 

On hearing his true name proclaimed by Tristan, young 
d'Estouteville thought less of himself than of the danger 
his unhappy mistress would be in if he vi^ere recognised. 
To divert suspicion, he exclaimed : — 

*■ By ail the devils, help ! Ail good vagabonds, help ! ' 

After this terrible outcry, uttered by a man vi^ho was 
absolutely desperate, the young courtier with one tremen- 
dous bound, poniard in hand, rushed out to the stairs. But 
the Provost's foUowers were used to such adventures. As 
soon as Georges d'Estouteville had reached the steps, they 
dexterously captured him, undaunted by the vigorous thrust 
he made at one of them, which fortunately slipped on the 
man's breastplate. They disarmed him, tied his hands, and 
threw him back on his bed under the eyes of their chief, 
who stood thoughtful and immovable. 

Tristan silently examined the prisoner's hands, and 
scratching his chin he pointed them out to Cornélius, 
saying : — 

' Those are no more the hands of a robber than those of 
an apprentice. He is of noble birth.' 

' Say rather of ignoble earth,' cried the Fleming, dole- 
fully. *■ My good Tristan, whether he be noble or base- 
born, the villain has undone me. I would I might see 
him at this moment with his hands and feet toasting, or 
fitted into your neat little boots. He is beyond a doubt 
the captain of the invisible légion of devils who know ail 

Maître Cornélius 153 

my secrets, open ail my locks, rob me, and kill me by 
inches. They are rich by now, my friend. Ah ! But 
this time we will hâve their treasure, for this fellow looks 
like the King of Egypt. I shall get back my precious 
rubies and vast sums of money ; our good King shall hâve 
his hands full of crowns.' 

' Oh, our hiding-places are safer than yours ! ' said 
Georges, smiling. 

'Ah, the damned villain, he confesses!' exclaimed the 

The Provost Marshal, meanwhile, had been examining 
the prisoner's clothes and the lock. 

* Was it you who unscrevs^ed ail those rivets ? ' 

Georges made no reply. 

*■ Oh, very well ; hold your tongue if you like. You 
will confess presently to Saint Rack-bones,' said Tristan. 

' Ah, now you talk sensé ! ' cried Cornélius. 

' Lead him away,' said the Provost. 

Georges d'Estouteville asked permission to dress. At 
a sign from their master, the men-at-arms dressed the 
prisoner with the dexterous rapidity of a nurse who takes 
advantage of a moment when her baby is quiet, to change 
its clothes. 

A great crowd had collected in the Rue du Mûrier, 
Their murmurs grew louder every moment, and seemed to 
threaten a riot. Rumours of the theft had been rife in the 
town from an early hour. Popular sympathy was in fa- 
vour of the apprentice, who was said to be young and 
good-looking, and there was a gênerai revival of hatred 
against Cornélius ; so there was never a good mother's 
son, nor a young woman blest with neat feet and a rosy 
face, who was not eager to see the victim. There was a 
fearful uproar as soon as Georges appeared in the street, 
led by one of the Provost's men who, though mounted on 
a horse, held the strong leather thong by which the pris- 

154 Maître Cornélius 

oner was secured, twisted round his arm, while the young 
man's hands were tightly tied. Whether it was merely to 
see Philippe Goulenoire, or in the hope of a rescue, those 
behind pushed those in front close up to the guard of 
cavalry posted outside the Malemaison. At this instant 
Cornélius and his sister slammed the door and closed the 
shutters with the véhémence of panic terror. Tristan, 
who was not accustomed to respect the populace, saw that 
the mob was not yet master, and cared not a straw for 
any riot. 

' Push on, push on ! ' said he to his men. 

At their master's word the bowmen urged their horses 
towards the end of the street. And then, seeing two or 
three inquisitive mortals fallen under the horses' feet, and 
some others crushed against the walls where they were 
being stifled, the crowd that had collected took the wiser 
part and went home again. 

' Make way for the King's justice ! ' cried Tristan. 
*■ What business hâve you hère ? Do you want to be 
hanged, too ? Go home, good folks ; your roast méat is 
burning ! Now then, goodwife, your husband's hose need 
mending ; go back to your needle.' 

Although thèse facetious remarks showed that the Pro- 
vost was in high good humour, the most daring fled from 
him as if he were the Black Death. Just as the crowd 
began to give way, Georges d'Estouteville was startied to 
see, at one of the Windows of the Hôtel de Poitiers, his 
beloved Marie de Saint-Vallier, laughing with the Count. 
She was laughing at him, the unhappy, devoted lover, who 
was going to death for her sake. Nay, perhaps she only 
was amused by those in the crowd whose caps had been 
knocked ofF by the archers' accoutrements. 

A man must be three and twenty and rich indeed in 
illusions, must dare to trust in a woman's love, must love 
with ail the powers of his being, and, after risking his life 
with joy on the faith of a kiss, must feel himself betrayed, 

Maître Cornélius 155 

ère he can understand the rage, hatred, and despair that 
surged up in the young man's soûl as he saw his mistress 
laughing and vouchsafing him only a cold and indiffèrent 
glance. She had, no doubt, been there some time, for her 
arms rested on a cushion. She was evidently quite com- 
fortable, and her old ogre quite content. He was laughing, 
too, — curse him for a hunchback ' 

A tear or two trickled from the young man's eyes ; but 
when Marie saw them, she hastily drew back. And sud- 
denly Georges' eyes were dry, for he descried the red and 
black feathers of the page who was devoted to him. 

The Count did not observe the movements of that cau- 
tious servant, who came in on tiptoe. The page spoke a 
Word in his mistress' ear, and then Marie came back to 
the window. She contrived to évade the watchful eye of 
her tyrant long enough to flash a look at her lover — 
the look of a woman who has skilfuUy deceived her 
Argus — bright with the fires of love and the triumph 
of hope. 

' I am watching over you.' If she had shouted the words, 
it could not hâve expressed so many things as this glance, 
embodying a thousand thoughts, and charged with the 
alarms, the joys, the périls, of their situation. It bore him 
from heaven to martyrdom, and from martyrdom to heaven. 
And so the young man, light-hearted and content, marched 
on to exécution, counting the anguish of the torture-cham- 
ber as a small price for the raptures of love. 

As Tristan was turning out of the Rue du Mûrier, his 
men drew up at the présence of an ofEcer of the Scottish 
Guard, who rode up at full tilt. 

*■ What is to do ? ' asked the Provost. 

' Nothing that concerns you,' replied the officer, scorn- 
fully. ' The King has sent me to summon the Comte and 
Comtesse de Saint-Vallier, whom he bids to dine at his 

Hardly had the Provost reached the quay of Le Plessis 

156 Maître Cornélius 

when the Count and his wife, both riding, she on a white 
mule and he on his horse, and followed by two pages, 
came up with the bowmen to enter the precincts of the 
château in their company. The whole party went but 
slowly. Georges was on foot, between two men-at-arms, 
one of whom still led him by the thong. 

Tristan, the Count, and his wife naturally led the van, 
and the criminal came behind. The younger page, mingling 
with the bowmen, was questioning them, or from time to 
time addressing the prisoner; and he cleverly seized an 
opportunity to say in an undertone : — 

' I climbed over the garden wall of Le Plessis, and carried 
a letter that Madame had written to the King. She 
thought she would hâve died when she heard that you 
were accused of theft. Be of good courage ; she will 
speak for you.' 

Love had already lent the Countess courage and craft. 
When she had laughed, her attitude and mirth were due to 
the heroism women can display in the great crises of life. 

Notwithstanding the singular caprice which led the 
author of ^entin Durward to place the château of Plessis- 
lez-Tours on a height, we are compelled to leave it where 
it really stood at that time, in a hollow, protected on two 
sides by the Cher and the Loire, and again by the canal, 
named by Louis XI the Canal Sainte-Anne in honour of his 
favourite daughter. Madame de Beaujeu. By uniting the 
two rivers between Tours and Le Plessis, this canal was at 
once a formidable protection to the stronghold and a valu- 
able highway for trade. On the side next to the broad 
and fertile plain of Bréhémont, the parle was enclosed 
behind a moat, of which the enormous width and depth 
are sufficiently shown by what remains. 

Thus, at a period when the power of artillery was in its 
infancy, the position of Le Plessis, long since chosen by 
Louis XI as his favourite retreat, might be regarded as 
impregnable. The château itself was built of brick and 

Maître Cornélius 157 

stone, and not in any way remarkable, but it was sur- 
rounded by fine groves, and from its windows, through the 
alleys of the park (^Plexitium)^ the loveliest views possible 
could be seen. And no rival mansion was to be found 
anywhere near this lovely palace standing exactly in the 
middle of the little plain enclosed for the King within four 
effectuai bulwarks of water. If tradition may be trusted, 
Louis XI occupied the western wing, and he could from 
his room see at once the course of the Loire, and beyond 
the river the pretty valley watered by the Choisille, and 
part of the hills of Saint-Cyr ; from the windows over- 
looking the court-yard he commanded the entrance to his 
fortress, and the quay by which his favourite résidence was 
connected with the city of Tours. The King's suspicious 
temper gives weight to this tradition. And certainly, if 
Louis XI had but lavished in the building of this palace 
such architectural magnificence as François I afterwards 
indulged at Chambord, the home of the kings of France 
would hâve been permanently fixed in Touraine. This 
beautiful spot, and its lovely scenery, hâve only to be seen 
to prove its superiority over the situation of any other royal 

Louis XI, now in his fifty-seventh year, had scarcely 
three more years to live, and was already made aware of 
the approach of death by attacks of illness. Delivered now 
from his enemies, and on the eve of adding to the kingdom 
of France ail the possessions of the duchy of Burgundy, 
by means of a marriage, arranged by Desquerdes, the cap- 
tain-general of his army in Flanders, between the Dauphin 
and Marguerite, sole heiress of Burgundy ; having secured 
his authority in every part of his realm, while still planning 
wise improvements, he saw time slipping from his grasp, 
nothing left to him but the troubles of advancing years. 
Deceived by everybody, even by his créatures, expérience 
had increased his natural distrustfulness. The désire to 
live had become in him the egoism of a king who had 

158 Maître Cornélius 

made himself one incarnate with his people, and who 
craved for long life to carry out vast schemes. 

Everything that the good sensé of public-spirited states- 
men or the instinct of révolution has since achieved in 
reforming the monarchy, Louis XI had thought out. 
Equality of taxation, and that of ail subjects in the eye of 
the Law — the Sovereign was the Law then — were objects 
he boldly strove for. On the day before AU Saints he had 
assembled certain learned goldsmiths to establish uniform 
weights and measures throughout France, as he had already 
established uniform authority. Thus his great mind soared 
eagle-like above the whole kingdom, and Louis XI added 
to the cautiousness of a king the eccentricities that are nat- 
ural to men of lofty genius. 

So grand a figure would at no period hâve appeared more 
poetical or more dignified. A strange mixture of contrasts ! 
A great will in a feeble frame j a mind incredulous as to 
earthly things, credulous as concerned religious practices ; a 
man combating two forces greater than himself — the prés- 
ent and the future : the future, when he dreaded to endure 
torment, which made him sacrifice so largely to the Church ; 
the présent, his actual life, for whose sake he was a slave 
to Coyctier. This King, who could crush whom he would, 
was crushed by remorse, and yet more by sickness, in the 
midst of ail the mysterious prestige that enwraps a suspi- 
cious king, in whom ail power centres. 

It was the stupendous and always impressive struggle 
of man in the fullest expression of his power, rebelling 
against nature. 

While waiting till the dinner hour, at that time between 
eleven o'clock and noon, Louis XI, after a short walk, was 
sitting in a large tapestried arm-chair in the chimney-corner 
of his own room. Olivier le Daim and Coyctier, the 
leech, looked at each other without a word, standing in a 
window-bay, and respecting their master's slumbers. The 

Maître Cornélius 159 

only Sound to be heard was that made in the anteroom by 
the two chamberlains-in-waiting, as they paced to and fro : 
the Sire de Alontrésor and Jean Dufou, Sire de Montbazon. 
Thèse two, gentlemen of the Touraine, kept an eye on the 
captain of the Scottish Guard, who was probably asleep in 
his chair, as was his custom. 

The King seemed to be dozing ; his head was sunk on 
his breast ; his cap, pulled over his brow, almost concealed 
his eyes. Thus huddled in his raised throne, which was 
surmounted by a crown, he looked like a man who had 
fallen asleep in the midst of some deep calculation. 

At this moment Tristan and his party were crossing the 
bridge of Sainte-Anne over the canal, at about two hundred 
paces from the entrance to the château. 

' Who goes there ? ' asked the King. 

The courtiers looked inquiringly at each other in surprise. 

' He is dreaming,' whispered Coyctier. 

' Pasques Dieu ! ' cried the King. ' Do you take me for 
a fool? Somebody is coming across the bridge. To be 
sure, I am sitting by the chimney, and of course can hear 
the Sound more clearly than you can. That natural efFect 
might be utilised ' 

* What a man ! ' said Olivier le Daim. 

Louis XI rose and went to the window, whence he 
could look out on the town ; then he saw the High Pro- 
vost, and exclaimed : — 

' Ah ha ! Hère is my old gossip with his thief. And 
there, too, comes my little Marie de Saint-Vallier. I had 
forgotten that little matter. Olivier,' he went on, address- 
ing the barber, ' go and tell Monsieur de Montbazon to 
put us some fine Burgundy on the table ; and see that the 
cook gives us lampreys. Madame la Comtesse dearly likes 
them both. May I eat lampreys ? ' he added after a pause, 
with an uneasy look at Coyctier. 

His attendant's only reply was to examine his master's 
face. The two men made a picture. 

i6o Maître Cornélius 

History and romance hâve consecrated the brown camlet 
overcoat, and trunks of the same material worn by Louis XL 
His cap, garnished with pewter medals, and his collar of the 
Order of Saint-Michael, are no less famous ; but no writer, 
no painter, has ever shown us the terrible King's face in 
his later days : a sicicly face, hollow, yellow, and tawny, 
every feature expressive of bitter cunning and icy irony. 
There was, indeed, a noble brow to this mask, a brow fur- 
rowed with Unes and seamed w^ith lofty thought, but on his 
cheeks and lips a singularly vulgar and common stamp. 
Certain détails of that countenance would hâve led to the 
conclusion that it belonged to some debauched old vine- 
grower, some miserly tradesman j but then, through thèse 
vague suggestions and the décrépitude of a dying old man, 
the King flashed out, the man of power and action. His 
eyes, pale and yellow, looked extinct ; but a spark lurked 
within of courage and wrath, which at the least touch 
would flame up into consuming fires. 

The physician was a sturdy citizen, dressed in black, 
with a florid, keen, and greedy face, giving himself airs 
of importance. 

The setting of thèse two figures was a room panelled 
with walnut wood, and hung with fine Flemish tapestry 
above the wainscot ; the ceiling, supported on carved beams, 
was already blackened by smoke. The furniture and bed- 
stead, inlaid with arabesques in white métal, would seem 
more valuable now than they really were at that time, 
when the arts were beginning to produce so many master- 

' Lamprey is very bad for you,' replied the physician.^ 

*■ What am I to eat, then ? ' the King humbly asked. 

' Some widgeon, with sait. Otherwise you are so full 
of bile that you might die on Ail Soûls' day.' 

1 Le physicien : this word then lately substituted for maître myrrhe (or leech) 
has been retained in English. It was generally used in France at that time. 
— Balzac. 

Maître Cornélius l6l 

* To-day ? ' cried the King, in great alarm. 

' Oh, be easy, Sire, I am hère,' replied Coyctier. ' Try 
not to fret, and amuse yourself a little.' 

' Ah,' said the King, ' my daughter used to be skilled 
in that difficult art.' 

Just then Imbert de Bastarnay, Sire de Montrésor and 
de Bridoré, gently knocked at the royal door. By the 
King's leave he came in, announcing the Comte and 
Comtesse de Saint-Vallier. Louis nodded. Marie en- 
tered the room, followed by her old husband, who allowed 
her to précède him. 

' Good day, my children,' said the King. 

' Sire,' said the lady in a whisper, as she embraced him, 
' I would fain speak with you in private.' 

Louis XI made as though he had not heard her. 

' Dufou, Nola ! ' cried he, in a hollow voice. 

Dufou, Lord of Montbazon and high cupbearer of 
France, hastened in. 

' Go to the steward ; I must hâve a widgeon for dinner. 
Then go to Madame de Beaujeu and tell her that I dine 
alone to-day. Do you know. Madame,' the King went 
on, afFecting some little anger, ' that you neglect me ? It 
is nearly three years since I saw you last. Come, come 
hither, pretty one,' he added, sitting down and holding out 
his arms to her. ' How thin you are ! What do you do 
to make her so thin ? Heh ? ' he suddenly asked, turning 
to the Count. 

The jealous wretch gave his wife such a pathetic look 
that she was almost sorry for him. 

' It is happiness. Sire,' he replied. 

' Oh, ho ! You are too fond of each other,' said the 
King, holding his daughter upright on his knees. ' Well, 
well, I see I v^^as right, then, when I called you Marie- 
pleine-de-Grace. Coyctier, leave us ! Now, what do you 
want of me ? ' he added, to his daughter, as the leech dis- 

appeared. 'When you sent me your ' 


i62 Maître Cornélius 

In such péril Marie audaciously laid her hand on the 
King's mouth, and said in his ear: — 

' I always thought you secret and keen-witted ' 

' Saint-Vallier,' said the King, laughing, ' I believe that 
Bridoré has something to say to you.' 

The Count left the room ; but he shrugged one shoul- 
der in a way his wife knew only too well ; she could guess 
the jealous monster's thoughts, and concluded that she 
must be on her guard against his malignancy. 

' Now tell me, child, how do you think I am looking ? 
Am I much altered ? ' 

' Gramercy, my lord, do you want the truth ? Or shall 
I speak you fair ? ' 

' No,' said he, in a husky voice, ' I want to know where 
I stand.' 

' In that case, you look but ill to-day. But I trust my 
truthfulncss may not mar the success of my business.' 

' What is it ? ' asked the King, passing one of his hands 
over his knitted brows. 

' Well, Sire,' said she, ' the young man who has been 
arrested in the house of your treasurer Cornélius, and who 
is at this présent in the hands of your Provost Marshal, 
is innocent of stealing the jewels of Bavaria.' 

' How do you know ? ' asked the King. 

Marie hung her head, and blushed, 

' I need not ask if there is a love-affair at the bottom of 
this,' said Louis XI, gently raising his daughter's face, and 
stroking her chin. ' If you do not confess every morning, 
child, you will go to hell.' 

' 'And cannot you oblige me without violating my secret 
thoughts ? ' 

' What would be the pleasure of that ? ' exclaimed the 
King, seeing that there might be some amusement in the 

' Oh, but you would not wish your pleasure to cost me 
sorrow ? ' 

Maître Cornélius 163 

' Heh ! sly puss, do not you trust me ? ' 

* Well, then, my lord, set this young gentleman free.' 

' Oh, ho ! So he is a gentleman ! ' cried the King. 
' Then he is not an apprentice ? ' 

' He is most certainly innocent,' said she. 

'I do not see it in that Hght,' said the King, coldly. 'I 
am the suprême judge in my kingdom, and it is my duty 
to punish malefactors.' 

*■ Nay, corne, do not put on your considering face. 
Grant me the young man's life.' 

* Would not that be giving you back what is your own ? ' 
' Sire,' said she, ' I am honest and virtuous. You are 

mocking me.' 

'Well, then,' said the King, as I cannot see my way 
in this business, let Tristan throw some Hght upon it.' 

Marie de Sassenage turned pale. With a violent effort 
she said : — 

' Sire, I assure you that you will be in despair if you do. 
The so-called thief has stolen nothing. If you will prom- 
ise me his pardon, I will tell you everything, even if you 
should visit it on me.' 

' Oh, ho ! This looks serious,' said Louis XI, setting 
his cap aside. 'Speak, my child.' 

' Well,' said she in a low voice, and speaking with her 
lips close to her father's ear, the gentleman spent the 
night in my room.' 

' He may hâve gone to see you, and yet hâve robbed 
Cornélius — a double larceny-' 

' Sire, I hâve your blood in my veins, and I am not the 
woman to love a vagabond. This gentleman is the nephew 
of the captain-general of your crossbowmen.' 

' Go on,' said the King. ' It is very hard to get any- 
thing out of you.' 

As he spoke, Louis flung his daughter off to some dis- 
tance ; and she stood trembling while he ran to the door 
into the next room, but on tiptoe, and without making a 

164 Maître Cornélius 

Sound. A moment since the light from a window in the 
outer room, shining beneath the door, had shown him 
the shadow of a pair of feet close to the entrance. He 
suddenly opened the iron-bound door, and surprised the 
Comte de Saint- Vallier, who was listening. 

' Pasques Dieu ! ' cried he, ' this is such insolence as 
deserves the axe.' 

' My liège,' said Saint-Vallier, boldly, ' I would rather 
hâve the axe at my neck than the ornament of the married 
on my forehead.' 

' You may live to hâve both,' said the King. ' Not a 
man of you ail is secure against those two misfortunes, 
my lords. Go into the further anteroom, Conyngham,' 
he went on, addressing the Scottish captain, ' were you 
asleep ? And where is Monsieur Bridoré ? Do you allow 
me to be thus invaded ? Pasques Dieu ! the plainest citizen 
in Tours is better served than I am.' 

Having thus vented his anger, Louis came back into his 
room ; but he took care to draw the tapestry curtains 
which covered the door on the inner side, less for the pur- 
pose of moderating the cold draught than of smothering 
the King's words. 

' And so, daughter,' said he, amusing himself vi^ith teas- 
ing her, as a cat plays with a mouse it has caught, ' Georges 
d'Estouteville was your gallant yesterday ? ' 

* Oh, no. Sire ! ' 

' No ? Then by Saint-Carpion ! he deserves to die. 
The villain did not think my daughter fair enough perhaps.' 

'Oh, if that is ail,' said she, 'I assure you he kissed my 
feet and hands with such ardour as might hâve melted the 
most virtuous wife. He loves me, but honestly, as a 
gentleman should.' 

' And do you take me for Saint-Louis that you foist such 
a taie on me? A youngster of that pattern would hâve 
risked his life to kiss your slippers or your sleeve ! Nay, 
nay ' 

Maître Cornélius 165 

' Aye, my lord, but it is true. Still he came for another 

As she spoke, it struck Marie that she had imperilled her 
husband's life, for Louis at once eagerly inquired : — 

*■ For what ? ' 

The adventure was amusing him hugely. He certainly 
did not expect the strange révélations now made by his 
daughter, after stipulating for her husband's pardon. 

' Oh, ho ! Monsieur de Saint- Vallier, so this is the way 
you draw the blood royal ! ' cried the King, his eyes blazing 
with wrath. 

At this moment the bell of Le Plessis rang to call the 
King's escort to arms. Leaning on his daughter's arm, 
Louis XI appeared on the threshold and found his guard 
in attendance. He first glanced dubiously at the Comte de 
Saint- Vallier, considering the sentence he was about to pro- 
nounce on him. 

The deep silence was broken by Tristan's footsteps 
coming up the grand stairs. He came into the room, and 
advancing to the King he said : — 

' Sire, the matter is settled ! ' 

' What, ail over ? ' said the King. 

' Our man is in the priests' hands. He confessed to the 
theft after a screw of the rack.' 

The Countess sighed and turned pale ; she could not even 
command her voice as she looked at the King. This 
glance was not lost on Saint-Vallier, who said in an under- 
tone : — 

* I am undone. The thief is known to my wife ! ' 

'Silence ! ' cried the King. 'There is some one hère of 
whom I am tired. Go quickly and stop the exécution,' he 
added, turning to the Provost. 'You will answer to me for 
the criminal; your life for his, my friend ! This afîair must 
be thoroughly searched out, and I reserve the judgment. 
Provisionally, set the prisoner at large. I shall know where 
to find him ; thèse robbers hâve hiding-places that they love, 

i66 Maître Cornélius 

dens where they lurk. Make it known to Cornélius that 
I purpose going to his house this very evening to conduct 
the inquiry. Monsieur de Saint-Vallier,' the King went 
on, fixing his eyes on the Count, ' I hâve heard of ail your 
doings. Ail the blood in your body cannot pay for one 
drop of mine ; do you know that ? By our Lady of Clery, 
you hâve been guilty of high treason. Did I give you so 
sweet a wife that you might make her pale and haggard ? 
Marry, my lord ! You go to your own house at this 
moment, and make you ready there for a long journey.' 

The mère habit of cruelty made the King pause on thèse 
words, but he presently added : — 

' You will set forth this night to treat of my business 
with the Signors of Venice. Do not be uneasy ; I will 
bring your wife home with me this evening to my château 
of Le Plessis ; there, at least, she will be safe. Henceforth 
I shall take better care of her than I hâve done since you 
wedded her.' 

Marie, as she heard thèse words, silently pressed her 
father's arm to thank him for his clemency and good grâce. 
As to Louis, he was laughing in his sleeve. 

Louis XI dearly loved to interfère in his subjects' con- 
cerns, and was ever ready to mingle in his own royal per- 
son in scènes of middle-class life. This fancy, severely 
blamed by some historians, was no more than the passion 
for the incognito which is one of the chief amusements of 
princes, a sort of temporary abdication which enables them 
to bring a breath of work-a-day life into an existence which 
is insipid for lack of opposition; but then Louis XI 
played at an incognito without any disguise. In this sort of 
adventures, too, he was always good-humoured, and did 
his utmost to be pleasant to the citizen class, of whom he 
had made friends and allies against the feudal lords. 

It was now some little time since he had an opportunity 
of thus making himself popular, or taking up the defence 
of a man enmeshed in some actionable offence, so he was 

Maître Cornélius 167 

ready to enter vehemently into Maître Cornélius's alarms 
and the Countess's secret griefs. 

Several times during dinner he said to his daughter: — 
*■ But who can hâve robbed my old gossip ? He has 
lost more than twelve hundred thousand crowns' worth of 
jewels, stolen within the last eight years. Twelve hun- 
dred thousand crowns, my lords,' he repeated, looking round 
on the gentlemen in attendance. ' By our Lady, for such 
a sum of money a great many absolutions may be bought 
of the Court of Rome. I could hâve embanked the Loire 
for the money, or, better still, hâve conquered Piedmont — 
a fine bulwark, ready made, for our kingdom.' 

When dinner was ended, Louis XI led away his daughter, 
his physician, and the Provost Marshal, and made his way 
with an escort of his guard to the Hôtel de Poitiers, where, 
as he had expected, he found the Comte de Saint-Vallier, 
who was awaiting his wife, perhaps to get rid of her. 

*• Monsieur,' said the King, ' I had instructed you to de- 
part as soon as possible. Take leave of your wife and get 
across the frontier ; you will be granted an escort of honour. 
As to your instructions and letters of crédit, they will be at 
Venice sooner than you.' 

Louis gave his orders, adding certain secret instructions, 
to a lieutenant of the Scottish Guard, who was to take a 
Company and attend his envoy to Venice. Saint-Vallier 
went ofF in great haste, after giving his wife a cold kiss, 
which he would gladly hâve rendered fatal. 

As soon as the Countess had retired to her room, Louis 
proceeded to the Malemaison, very anxious to see the end 
of the dismal farce that was going on under his gossip the 
usurer's roof, and flattering himself that, being the King, 
he would hâve keen wit enough to detect the robbers' 

It was not without appréhension that Cornélius saw his 
master's company. 

i68 Maître Cornélius 

' And are ail thèse folks part of the ceremony ? ' he asked 
in a low voice. Louis could not help smiling at the terrors 
of the old miser and his sister. 

'No, gossip,' replied he, ' be quite easy. They will sup 
with us at my house ; we shall go into the matter alone. 
I am such a good justiciary that I wager ten thousand 
crowns I find the criminal.' 

' Let us find him, my lord, and never mind the wager.' 

They went into the closet where the Fleming stored his 
treasures. Hère King Louis, having first examined the 
case which had contained the Elector of Bavaria's jewels, 
and then the chimney down which the thief was supposed 
to hâve come, easily proved to the goldsmith that his sus- 
picions were unfounded, inasmuch as there was no soot on 
the hearth, — where, indeed, a fire was rarely kindled, — 
and no trace of any kind in the chimney. Moreover, the 
chimney opened to a part of the roof that was practically 
inaccessible. Finally, after two hours spent in investiga- 
tions characterised by the sagacity which distinguished the 
King's distrustful temper, it was proved to a démonstration 
that no one could hâve got into the miser's treasury. There 
was no mark of violence on any of the locks, inside or out, 
nor on the iron coffers containing his gold and silver and 
the costly jewels pledged by wealthy borrowers. 

*■ If the robber opened this hoard,' said Louis XI, ' why 
did he take only the Bavarian jewels ? Why should he 
hâve left this pearl necklace ? A strange thief, indeed ! ' 

At this reflection the hapless miser turned pale ; the 
King and he eyed each other for a moment. 

* Well, then, my liège, what was the robber doing whom 
you hâve taken under your protection, and who certainly 
was out during the night ? ' 

* If you hâve not guessed, master, I désire that you never 
will ; it is one of my secrets.' 

*■ Then the devil haunts me ! ' said the goldsmith, lamen- 

Maître Cornélius 169 

Under any other circumstances the King would hâve 
laughed at his treasurer's exclamation ; but he stood think- 
ing and gazing at Maître Cornélius with the scrutiny fa- 
miliar to men of genius and authority, as if he could see 
into the man's brain. The Fleming, in fact, was terrified, 
thinking he had ofFended his formidable master. 

'Angel or devil, I will hâve the malefactor ! ' the King 
suddenly exclaimed. ' If you are robbed this night, I will 
know by whom to-morrow. Call up that old ape, your 
sister,' he added. 

Cornélius almost hesitated to leave the King alone in the 
room that contained his treasure ; however, he went, coerced 
by the strength of the bitter smile that curled Louis' faded 
lips. And in spite of his confidence, he soon returned, fol- 
lowed by the old woman. 

' Hâve you any flour ? ' asked the King. 

' To be sure ; we hâve laid in our store for the winter,' 
said she. 

' Well, then, bring it hère,' said the King. 

' And what would you be doing with our flour, Sire ? ' 
cried she in alarm, and not in the least awed by the présence 
of majesty, like ail persons possessed by a ruling passion. 

^ You old fool, will you do as our gracious liège bids 
you ? ' cried Cornélius. ' Does the King want your flour ? ' 

' This is what I buy fine flour for,' muttered she, on the 
stairs. ' Oh, my good flour ! ' 

She turned back to say to the King : — 

' Is it your royal whim, my lord, to examine my flour ? ' 

But at last she returned with one of the linen bags, which 
from time immémorial hâve been used in Touraine for car- 
rying provisions to or from market, — walnuts, fruit, or corn. 
This sack was half full of flour. The housewife opened it, 
and timidly showed it to the King, looking at him with the 
swift stolen glances by which old maids, as it would seem, 
hope to cast venom on a man. 

' It is worth six sous the measure,' said she. 

lyo Maître Cornélius 

' What matter ! ' replied the King. *■ Sprinkle it on the 
floor, and above ail strew it very evenly, as if there had 
been a light fall of snow.' 

The old woman did not understand. The order dis- 
mayed her more than the end of the world could hâve 

* My flour, my liège — on the floor — why ' 

Maître Cornélius, who had an inkling, though a vague 
one, of the King's idea, snatched the bag, and sprinkled 
the flour gently on the boards. The old woman shud- 
dered, and held out her hand for the bag ; as soon as her 
brother restored it to her, she vanished with a deep sigh. 

Cornélius took a feather broom and began spreading the 
flour with it over the floor till it lay like a sheet of snow, 
walking backwards towards the door, followed by the King, 
who seemed greatly amused by the proceedings. When 
they were at the threshold, Louis XI said to his gossip: — 

' Are there two keys to the lock ? ' 

^ No, Sire.' 

The King examined the structure of the door, which 
was strengthened by large iron plates and bars. Ail the 
parts of this armour centred round a lock with a secret, of 
which Cornélius alone had the key. After investigating it 
thoroughly, Louis sent for Tristan, and bid him to set a 
watch with the utmost secrecy that night, some in the mul- 
berry-trees on the quay, and on the parapets of the neigh- 
bouring houses ; but first to collect ail his men to escort him 
back to Le Plessis, so as to make it appear that he, the King, 
was not supping with Maître Cornélius. Then he desired 
the miser to be so particular in closing every window, that 
not a glimmer of light could pierce through, and to order a 
light meal, so as not to give a hint that His Majesty was 
sleeping there that night. 

The King set out in state by the dyke road and returned 
privily, with only two attendants, by the rampart gâte to 
the house of his friend the miser. Everything was so well 

Maître Cornélius 171 

arranged that ail the townsfolk and courtiers supposed that 
the King had chosen to go back to the château, and would 
sup with the treasurer on the morrow. The miser's sister 
confirmed this notion by buying some green sauce from the 
best maker, whose shop was close to the quarroir aux herbes^ 
since called the carroir de Beaune, in honour of a splendid 
white marble fountain which the unfoitunate Semblançay 
(Jacques de Beaune) sent for from Italy to adorn the capital 
of his province. 

At about eight in the evening, when the King was at 
supper with his leech, Cornélius and the captain of the 
Scottish Guard, talking gayly and forgetting that he was 
Louis XI and ill, and almost dying, perfect silence reigned 
outside, and the passers-by, nay, even a thief, niight hâve 
supposed the dwelling to be uninhabited. 

'I hope,' said the King, laughing, 'that my gossip may 
be robbed this night, to satisfy my curiosity. And see to 
it, gentlemen, that no one leaves his chamber to-morrow 
morning without my orders, under pain of serious punish- 

Thereupon they ail went to bed. 

Next morning Louis XI was the first to leave his room, 
and he made his way towards Cornélius's treasure-room. 
He was not a little surprised to detect the prints of a large 
foot on the stairs and in the passages of the house. Care- 
fully avoiding thèse precious marks, he went to the door 
of the miser's closet and found it locked, with no traces of 
violence. He examined the direction of the footprints, 
but as they gradually grew fainter and at last left no mark, 
it was impossible to discover how the robber had escaped. 

*• Ah ha ! gossip,' cried the King to Cornélius, ' you hâve 
been robbed, that is very certain ! ' 

At thèse words the oîd Fleming came out, a prey to évi- 
dent horror. Louis XI led him to look at the footprints 
on the boards, and while examining them once more, the 

172 Maître Cornélius 

King, having by chance observed the miser's slippers, 
recognised the shape of the sole of which so many copies 
were stamped on the flooring. He said not a word, and 
suppressed a laugh, remembering how many innocent men 
had been hanged. 

Cornélius hurried into his strong room. The King, 
bidding him make a fresh footprint by the side of those 
already visible, convinced him that the thief was none other 
than himself. 

' The pearl necklace is missing ! ' cried Cornélius. 
' There is witchcraft in this. I hâve not left my room.' 

'We will find out about that at once,' said the King, 
puzzled by the goldsmith's évident good faith. 

He called the men of the watch into his room and 
asked them : — 

' Marry now, what did you see in the night ? ' 

' Ah, Sire ! a magical sight ! ' replied the lieutenant. 
'Your Majesty's treasurer stealing down-stairs close to 
the wall, and so nimbly that at first we took him for a 

' I ! ' cried Cornélius, who then stood silent and motion- 
less as a paralysed créature. 

' You may go, ail of you,' said Louis, addressing the 
bowmen ; '- and tell Monsieur Conyngham, Coyctier, 
Bridoré, and Tristan that they may get out of bed and 
come hère. You hâve incurred pain of death,' said 
Louis, coldly, to the miser, who, happily, did not hear 
him, ' for you hâve at least ten on your soûl ! ' 

The King laughed, a grim, noiseless laugh, and paused. 

* But be easy,' he went on, as he noticed the strange 
palour that overspread the old man's face ; ' you are better 
to bleed than to kill. And in considération of a handsome 
fine, paid into my cofFers, you may escape the clutches of 
justice ; but if you do not build at least a chapel to the 
Virgin, you are in jeopardy of finding warm and anxious 
work before you for ail eternity.' 

Maître Cornélius 173 

*■ Tvvelve hundred and thirty and eighty-eight thousand 
crowns make thirteen hundred and seventeen thousand 
crowns,' replied Cornélius, mechanically, absorbed in cal- 
culations. * Thirteen hundred and seventeen thousand 
crowns misappropriated ! ' 

' He must hâve buried them in some hidden spot,' said 
the King, who was beginning to think the sum a royal 
prize. ' This is the lodestone that has always attracted 
him hither — he smeit his gold.' 

Hereupon Coyctier came in. Noticing the treasurer's 
attitude, he watched him keenly while the King was relat- 
ing the adventure. 

' My lord,' replied the physician, ' there is nothing super- 
natural in the business. Our friend hère has the peculiarity 
of walking in his sieep. This is the third case I hâve met 
with of this singular malady. If you should be pleased to 
witness its effects, you might see this old man walking with- 
out danger on the parapet of the roof any night when he 
should be seized by it. In the two men I hâve already 
studied, I discovered a curiou? connection between the 
instincts of this nocturnal vitality and their business or 
occupations by day.' 

' Ah, Maître Coyctier, you are indeed most learned ! ' 

' Am I not your physician ? ' retorted the leech, in- 

On this reply Louis XI made a little movement which 
was a familiar trick with him when he had hit on a good 
idea, — a gesture of hastily pushing his cap up. 

' In such cases,' Coyctier went on, ' men transact their 
business in their sleep. As our friend hère is not averse to 
hoarding, he has quietly yielded to his favourite habit. 
Indeed, he probably has an attack whenever, during the 
day, he has been in alarm for his treasure.' 

' Pasques Dieu ! and what a treasure ! ' cried the King. 

' Where is it ? ' asked Cornélius, who, by a singular 
peculiarity of our nature, heard ail that the King and his 

174 Maître Cornélius 

leech were saying, though almost stunned by his reflections 
and his misfortune. 

* Oh ! ' replied Coyctier, with a coarse, diabolical laugh, 
* somnambulists hâve no recollection of their acts and deeds 
when they awake.' 

* Leave us ! ' said the King. 

When Louis XI was alone with his gossip, he looked at 
him with a cold chuckle. 

' Worshipful Master Hoogworst,' said he, bowing low, 
' ail treasure-trove in France belongs to the King.' 

*■ Yes, my liège, it is ail yours ; and our lives and fortunes 
are in your hands ; but hitherto you hâve been so merciful 
as to take no more than you found necessary.' 

* Listen to me, gossip. If I help you to recover this 
treasure, you may, in ail confidence and without fear, divide 
it with me.' 

' No, Sire, I will not divide it. It shall be ail yours, when 
I am dead. But what scheme hâve you for finding it? ' 

' I hâve only to watch you, myself, while you are taking 
your nocturnal walks. Àny one but myself would be a 

' Ah, Sire,' replied Cornélius, falling at the King's feet, 
' you are the only man in the kingdom whom I would trust 
with that office, and I shall find means to prove my grati- 
tude for your kindness to your humble servant by doing 
my utmost to promote the marriage of the Heiress of 
Bourgogne to Monseigneur the Dauphin. There indeed 
is a treasure, not, to be sure, in crown-pieces, but in land, 
which will nobly round out your dominions ! ' 

' Pshaw, Fleming, you are deceiving me ! ' said the King, 
knitting his brows, * or you hâve played me false.' 

' Nay, Sire, can you doubt my dévotion — you, the only 
man I love ? ' 

' Words, words ! ' said the King, turning to face the 
miser. ' You ouo;ht not to hâve waited for this to be of 
use to me. You are selling me your patronage — Pasques 

Maître Cornélius 175 

Dieu ! to me — Louis the Eleventh ! Are you the master, 
I would Icnow, and am I the servant ? ' 

' Ah, my liège,' replied the old usurer, ' I had hoped to 
give vou an agreeable surprise by news of the communica- 
tions I had established with the men of Ghent. I expected 
confirmation of it by the hand of Oosterlinck's apprentice. 
But what has become of him ? ' 

' Enough,' said the King. '- Another error. I do not 
choose that any one should interfère, uncalled for, in my 
concerns. Enough ! I must think ail this over.' 

Maître Cornélius found the agility of youth to fly to the 
lower room, where his sister was sitting. 

' Oh, Jeanne, dear heart, we hâve somewhere a hoard 
where I hâve hidden the thirteen hundred thousand crowns. 
And I — I am the thief ! ' 

Jeanne Hoogworst rose from her stool, starting to her 
feet as if the seat were of red-hot iron. The shock was 
so frightful to an old woman accustomed for many years 
to exhaust herself by voluntary abstinence, that she quaked 
in every limb and felt a terrible pain in her back. By 
degrees her colour faded, and her face, in which the 
wrinkles made any change very difficult to detect, grad- 
ually fell, while her brother explained to her the disease 
to which he was a victim, and the strange situation in 
which they both stood. * 

' King Louis and I,' said he in conclusion, ' hâve just 
been telling each other as many lies as two miracle- 
mongers. You see, child, if he were to watch me, he 
would be sole master of the secret of the treasure. No 
one in the world but the King can spy on my nocturnal 
movements. Now I do not know that the King's con- 
science, near on death as he is, could stand out against 
thirteen hundred and seventeen thousand crowns. We 
must be beforehand with him, find the nest, and send ail 
treasure to Ghent. Now you alone ' 

Cornélius suddenly stopped short, as if he were gauging 

176 Maître Cornélius 

the heart of this King, who, at two and twenty, had 

dreamed of parricide. When the treasurer had made up 

bis mind as to Louis XI, he hastily rose, as a man in a 

hurry to escape some danger. 

I At this sudden movement, his sister, too weak or too 

- strong for such a crisis, fell down flat ; she was dead. 

Cornélius lifted her up and shook her violently, saying : — 

■^ 'This is no time for dying ; you will hâve time enough 

' for that afterwards. Oh ! it is ail over ! Wretched 

créature, she could never do the right thing ' 

He closed her eyes and laid her on the floor. But then 
the kind and noble feelings that lurked at the bottom of 
his heart came to the surface, and almost forgetting his 
undiscovered treasure, he cried out in sorrow : — 

' My poor companion ! what, hâve I lost you — you 
who understood me so well ? Ah ! you were my real 
treasure. There, there, lies the treasure. With you I 
hâve lost ail my peace of mind, ail my affections. If you 
had but known how well it would hâve paid you to live 
only two nights longer, you would not hâve died, if only 
to please me, poor little woman. I say, Jeanne — thirteen 
hundred and seventeen thousand crowns ! No, even that 
does not rouse you. No, she is dead, quite dead ! ' 

He thereupon sat down and said no more, but two 
large tears gathered in his eyes and rolled down his hol- 
low cheeks ; then with many an ' Ah ! ' and sigh he locked 
the room up and returned to the King. Louis was startled 
by the grief he saw written on his old friend's features. 

' What is this ? ' said he. 

*■ Alas, Sire, a misfortune never comes single. My sister 
is dead. She has gone below before me,' and he pointed 
to the ground with startling emphasis. 

' Enough, enough ! ' said Louis XI, who did not like 
to hear any mention of death. 

' You are my heir. I care for nothing now. Hère are 
my keys. Hang me, if it is your good pleasure. Take 

Maître Cornélius 177 

everything ; search the house ; it is full of gold. I give 
it ail to you.' 

' Come, corne, gossip,' said the King, half moved by the 
sight of this strange anguish, ' we will discover the hoard 
some fine night, and the sight of so much riches will 
revive your taste for life. I will come again this week,' 

' VVhenever Your Majesty pleases.' 

At thèse words, the King, who had gone a few steps 
towards the door, turned sharply round, and the two men 
looked at each other with an expression that no brush, nor 
words, could render. 

' Good-bye, gossip,' said Louis, at last, in a sharp voice, 
as he put his bonnet straight. 

' May God and the Virgin keep you in their good grâce ! ' 
the usurer replied humbly, as he escorted the King to the 

After so long a friendship thèse two men found a bar- 
rier raised between them_by distrust and money, whereas 
they had hitherto been quite agreed on matters of money 
and distrust ; but they knew each other so well, they were 
so much in the habit of intimacy, that the King could 
guess from the miser's tone as he rashly said, ' Whenever 
Your Majesty pleases,' the annoyance his visits would 
thenceforth be to his treasurer, just as Cornélius had dis- 
cerned a déclaration of war in the way Louis had said 
' Good-bye, gossip,' 

So Louis XI and his banker parted, very uncertain as to 
what, for the future, their demeanour was to be, The mon- 
arch, indeed, knew the Fleming's secret ; but the Fleming 
on his part could, through his connections, secure the 
grandest conquest any king of France had yet achieved, — 
that of the domains of the House of Burgundy, which were 
just then the object of envy to every sovereign in Europe, 

The famous Margaret's choice would be guided by the 
good folks of Ghent and the Flemings about her, Hoog- 
worst's gold and influence would tell for a great deal in the 

178 Maître Cornélius 

negotiations opened by Desquerdes, the captain to whom 
Louis XI had given the command of the army on the 
Belgian frontier. Thus thèse two master foxes were in the 
position of duellists whose strength had been neutralised by 
some stroke of fate. 

And whether it was that from that day the King's health 
had failed visibly, or that Cornélius in part promoted the 
arrivai in France of Marguerite of Burgundy, who came 
to Amboise in July, 1438, to be married to the Dauphin 
in the chapel of the château, the King claimed no fine 
from his treasurer and no trial was held ; but they remained 
in the half-cordial terms of an armed friendship. 

Happily for the miser, a rumour got about that his sister 
had committed the thefts, and that she had been privily 
executed by Tristan. Otherwise, and if the true story had 
become known, the whole town would hâve risen in arms 
to destroy the Malemaison before the King could possi- 
bly hâve defended it. 

However, if ail this historical guesswork has some foun- 
dation with regard to Louis XI's inaction, Master Corné- 
lius Hoogw^orst cannot be accused of supineness. He spent 
the first days after this fatal morning in a constant hurry. 
Like a beast of prey shut up in a cage, he came and went, 
scenting gold in every corner of his dwelling; he examined 
every cranny ; he tapped the walls ; he demanded his treas- 
ure of the trees in the garden, of the foundations, of the 
turret roofs, of earth, and of heaven. Often he would stand 
for hours looking at everything around him, his eyes search- 
ing vacancy. He tried the miracles and second-sight of 
magie powers, endeavouring to see his gold through space 
and solid obstacles. 

He was constantly absorbed in one overwhelming thought, 
consumed by an idea that gnawed at his vitals, and yet 
more cruelly racked by the perennial torments of his duel 
with himself, since his love of gold had turned to rend 
itself ; it was a sort of incomplète suicide comprehending 

Maître Cornélius 179 

ail the pangs of living and of dying. Never had a vice 
so efFectually entrapped itself ; for the miser who inadver- 
tently locks hiniself into the subterranean cell where his 
wealth is buried, has, like Sardanapalus, the satisfaction of 
perishing in the midst of it. But Cornélius, at once the 
robber and the robbed, and in the secret of neither, pos- 
sessed, and yet did not possess, his treasures — a quite new, 
quite whimsical form of torture, but perpetually excruciat- 


Sometimes, almost oblivious, he would leave the little 
wicket of his door open, and then the passers-by could see 
the shrivelled old man standing in the middle of his neg- 
lected garden, perfectly motionless, and looking at any who 
stopped to gaze at him, with a fixed stare, a lurid glare, 
that froze them with terror. If by chance he went out into 
the streets of the town, you would hâve thought he was a 
stranger ; he never knew where he was, nor whether it was 
the Sun or the moon that were shining. He would often 
ask his way of the persons he met, fancying himself at 
Ghent, and he seemed always to be looking for his lost 

The most irrépressible and most incorporate of ail human 
ideas, — that by which a man identifies himself by creating 
outside and apart from his person the whole fictitious entity 
which he calls his property, — this démon idea had its talons 1 
constantly clutching at the miser's soûl. ' 

Then, in the midst of his torments, Fear would rise up 
with ail the feelings that come in its train. For, in fact, 
two men knew his secret — the secret which he himself 
did not know. Louis XI or Coyctier might post their spies 
to watch his movements while he was asleep, and discover 
the unknown gulf into which he had flung his wealth with 
the blood of so many innocent men ; for Remorse kept 
watch with Fear. 

To préserve his lost riches from being snatched from 
him while he lived, during the early days after his disaster, 

i8o Maître Cornélius 

he took the utmost précaution to avoid sleeping, and his 
connection with the commercial world enabled him to pro- 
cure the strongest anti-narcotics. His wakeful nights must 
hâve been terrible ; he was alone to struggle against the 
night and silence, against remorse and fear, and ail the 
thoughts that man has most eft'ectually personified — in- 
stinctively, no doubt, in obédience to some law of the mind, 
true, though not yet proved. 

In short, this man, strong as he was ; this heart, annealed 
by the life of politics and commerce; this genius, though 
unknown to history, — was doomed to succumb under the 
horrors of the torments he himself had created, Crushed 
by some reflection even more cruel than ail that had gone 
before, he eut his throat with a razor. 

His death almost exactly coincided in time with the 
King's, so that the House of Evil was plundered by the 
mob. Some of the older inhabitants of the province asserted 
that a revenue farmer named Bohier had found the extor- 
tioner's treasure, and had employed it in building the begin- 
nings of the château of Chenonceaux, that wonderful palace 
which, in spite of the lavish outlay of several kings and 
the fine taste of Diane de Poitiers and her rival Catherine 
de' Medici, is still unfinished. 

Happily for Marie de Sassenage, the Comte de Saint- 
Vallier died, as is well known, as ambassador to Venice. 
The family did not become extinct. After the Count's 
departure his wife had a son, whose fortunes were famous 
in the history of France under the reign of François I. He 
was saved by his daughter, the famous Diane de Poitiers, 
Louis XI's illegitimate great-granddaughter; and she be- 
came the illégal wife, the adored mistress, of Henri II ; for 
in that noble family bastardy and love were hereditary. 

Château de Sache, No-vember and Decemher, 1831. 


To Monsieur le Marquis de Belloy 

It was sitting by the fire^ in a mysterious and magnificent 
retreat^ — ncfw a thing of the past but surviving in our mem- 
ory^ — whence cur eyes commanded a view of Paris from the 
heights of Bellevue to those of Belleville^ from Montmartre ta 
the triumphal Arc de Y Etoile^ that one morning^ refreshed by tea^ 
amid the msriad suggestions that shoot up and die like rockets 
from your sparkling flow of talk^ lavish of ideas^ you tossed to 
my pen a figure worthy of Hoffmann — that casket of unrecog- 
nised gems^ that pilgrim seated at the gâte of Paradise with ears 
to hear the songs of the angels but no longer a tongue to repeat 
them^ playing on the ivory keys with fingers crippled by the stress 
of divine inspiration^ believing that he is expressing celestial 
music to his bewildered listeners. 

It was you who created GambARA ; I hâve only clothed him. 
Let me render unto Casar the things that are Casars^ regret- 
ting only that you do not yourself take up the pen at a time 
when gentlemen ought to wield it as well as the sword^ if they 
are to save their country. Tou may neglect yourself but you owe 
your talents to us. 

New Year's day of 1831 was pouring out its packets of 
sugared almonds, four o'clock was striking, there was a 
mob in the Palais-Royal, and the eating-houses were begin- 
ning to fin. At this moment a coupé drew up at the 
perron and a young man stepped out ; a man of haughty 

i82 Gambara 

appearance, and no doubt a foreigner; otherwise he would 
not hâve displayed the aristocratie chasseur who attended 
him in a plumed hat, nor the coat of arms which the 
heroes of July still attacked. 

This gentleman went into the Palais-Royal, and followed 
the crowd round the galleries, unamazed at the slowness to 
which the throng of loungers reduced his pace ; he seemed 
accustomed to the stately step which is ironically nicknamed 
the ambassador's strut ; still, his dignity had a touch of 
the theatrical. Though his features were handsome and 
imposing, his hat, from beneath which thick black curls 
stood out, was perhaps tilted a little too much over the 
right ear, and belied his gravity by a too rakish efFect. His 
eyes, inattentive and half closed, looked down disdainfully 
on the crowd. 

' There goes a remarkably good-looking young man,' 
said a girl in a low voice, as she made way for him to pass. 

* And who is only too well aware of it ! ' replied her 
companion aloud — who was very plain. 

After walking ail round the arcades, the young man 
looked by turns at the sky and at his watch, and with a 
shrug of impatience went into a tobacconist's shop, lighted 
a cigar, and placed himself in front of a looking-glass to 
glance at his costume, which was rather more ornate than 
the rules of French taste allow. He pulled down his collar 
and his black velvet waistcoat, over which hung many fes- 
toons of the thick gold chain that is made at Venice; then, 
having arranged the folds of his cloak by a single jerk of 
his left shoulder, draping it gracefully so as to show the 
velvet lining, he started again on parade, indiffèrent to the 
glances of the vulgar. 

As soon as the shops were lighted up and the dusk 
seemed to him black enough, he went out into the square 
in front of the Palais-Royal, but as a man anxious not to 
be recognised ; for he kept close under the houses as far 
as the fountain, screened by the hackney-cab stand, till he 

Gambara 1 83 

reached the Rue Froid-Manteau, a dirty, poky, disreputable 
Street — a sort of sewer tolerated by the police close to the 
purified purlieus of the Palais-Royal, as an Italian major- 
domo allows a careless servant to leave the sweepings of 
the rooms in a corner of the staircase. 

The young man hesitated. He might hâve been a 
bedizened citizen's wife craning her neck over a gutter 
swollen by the rain. But the hour was not unpropitious 
for the indulgence of some discreditable whim. Earlier, 
he might hâve been detected ; later, he might find himself 
eut out. Tempted by a glance vi'hich is encouraging with- 
out being invitmg, to hâve followed a young and pretty 
woman for an hour, or perhaps for a day, thinking of her 
as a divinity and excusing her light conduct by a thousand 
reasons to her advantage; to hâve allowed oneself to believe 
in a sudden and irrésistible affinity ; to hâve pictured, under 
the promptings of transient excitement, a love-adventure in 
an âge when romances are written precisely because they 
never happen; to hâve dreamed of balconies, guitars, strata- 
gems, and bolts, enwrapped in Almaviva's cloak ; and, after 
inditing a poem in fancy, to stop at the door of a house of 
ill-fame, and, crowning ail, to discern in Rosina's bashful- 
ness a réticence imposed by the police — is not ail this, I 
say, an expérience familiar to many a man who would not 
own it ? 

The most natural feelings are those we are least willing 
to confess, and among them is fatuity. When the lesson 
is carried no further, the Parisian profits by it, or forgets 
it, and no great harm is done. But this would hardly 
be the case with this foreigner, who was beginning to 
think he might pay too dearly for his Paris éducation. 

This personage was a Milanese of good family, exiled 
from his native country, where some ' libéral ' pranks had 
made him an object of suspicion to the Austrian Govern- 
ment. Count Andréa Marcosini had been welcomed in 
Paris with the cordiality, essentially French, that a man 

1 84 Gambara 

always finds there, when he has a pleasant wit, a sounding 
name, two hundred thousand francs a year, and a pre- 
possessing person. To such a man banishment could but 
be a pleasure tour; bis property was simply sequestrated, 
and his friends let him know that after an absence of 
two years he might return to his native land without 

After riming crudeli affanni vvith / m'iei tiranni in a 
dozen or so of sonnets, and maintaining as many hapless 
Italian refugees out of his own purse, Count Andréa, who 
was so unlucky as to be a poet, thought himself released 
from patriotic obligations. So, ever since his arrivai, he 
had given himself up recklessly to the pleasures of every 
kind which Paris ofters gratis to those who can pay for 
them. His talents and his handsome person won him 
success among women, whom he adored collectively as 
beseemed his years, but among whom he had not as yet 
distinguished a chosen one. And indeed this taste was, 
in him, subordinate to those for music and poetry which 
he had cultivated from his childhood ; and he thought 
success in thèse both more difficult and more glorious to 
achieve than in afFairs of gallantry, since nature had not 
inflicted on him the obstacles men take most pride in 

À man, like many another, of complex nature, he was 
easily fascinated by the comfort of luxury, without which 
he could hardly hâve lived ; and, in the same way, he 
clung to the social distinctions which his principles con- 
temned. Thus his théories as an artist, a thinker, and a 
poet were in fréquent antagonism with his tastes, his 
fcelings, and his habits as a man of rank and wealth ; but 
he comforted himself for his inconsistencies by recognising 
them in many Parisians, like himself libéral by policy and 
aristocrats by nature. 

Hence it was not without some uneasiness that he 
found himself, on December 31, 1830, under a Paris thaw, 

Gambara 185 

following at the heels of a woman whose dress betrayed 
the most abject, inveterate, and long-accustomed poverty, 
who was no handsomer than a hundred others to be seen 
any evening at the play, at the opéra, in the world of 
fashion, and who was certainly not so young as Madame 
de Manerville, from whom he had obtained an assignation 
for that very day, and who was perhaps waiting for him 
at that very hour. 

But in the glance at once tender and wild, swift and 
deep, which that woman's black eyes had shot at him by 
stealth, there was such a world of buried sorrows and 
promised joys ! And she had coloured so fiercely when, 
on coming out of a shop where she had lingered a quarter 
of an hour, her look frankly met the Count's, who had 
been waiting for her hard by ! In fact, there were so 
many buts and //}, that, possessed by one of those mad 
temptations for which there is no word in any language, 
not even in that of the orgy, he had set out in pursuit of 
this woman, hunting her down like a hardened Parisian. 

On the way, whether he kept behind or ahead of this 
damsel, he studied every détail of her person and her dress, 
hoping to dislodge the insane and ridiculous fancy that 
had taken up an abode in his brain ; but he presently 
found in his examination a keener pleasure than he had 
feit only the day before in gazing at the perfect shape of 
a woman he loved, as she took her bath. Now and again, 
the unknown fair, bending her head, gave him a look like 
that of a kid tethered with its head to the ground, and 
finding herself still the object of his pursuit, she hurried 
on as if to fly. Nevertheless, each time that a block of 
carnages, or any other delay, brought Andréa to her side, 
he saw her turn away from his gaze without any signs of 
annoyance. Thèse signais of restrained feeling spurred 
the frenzied dreams that had run away with him, and he 
gave them the rein as far as the Rue Froid-Manteau, down 
which, after many windings, the damsel vanished, thinking 

i86 Gambara 

she had thus spoilt the scent for her pursuer, who was, 
in fact, startled by this move. 

It was now quite dark. Two women, tattooed with 
rouge, who were drinking black-currant liqueur at a 
grocer's counter, saw the young woman and called her. 
She paused at the door of the shop, replied in a few soft 
words to the cordial greeting offered her, and went on 
her way, Andréa, who was behind her, saw her turn 
into one of the darkest yards out of this street, of which 
he did not know the name. The répulsive appearance of 
the house where the heroine of his romance had been 
swallowed up made him feel sick. He drew back a step 
to study the neighbourhood, and finding an ill-looking man 
at his elbow, he asked him for information. The man, 
who held a knotted stick in his right hand, placed the left 
on his hip and replied in the single word — 

'Scoundrel ! ' 

But on looking at the Italian, who stood in the light of a 
street-lamp, he assumed a servile expression. 

*■ I beg your pardon, sir,' said he, suddenly changing his 
tone. ' There is a restaurant near this, a sort of table- 
d'hôte, where the cooking is pretty bad and they serve 
cheese in the soup. Monsieur is in search of the place, 
perhaps, for it is easy to see that he is an Italian — Italians 
are fond of velvet and of cheese. But if Monsieur would 
like to know of a better eating-house, an aunt of mine, who 
lives a few steps off, is very fond of foreigners.' 

Andréa raised his cloak as high as his moustache, and 
fled from the street, spurred by the disgust he felt at this 
foui person, whose clothes and manner were in harmony 
with the squalid house into which the fair unknown had 
vanished. He returned with rapture to the thousand 
luxuries of his own rooms, and spent the evening at the 
Marquise d'Espard's to cleanse himself, if possible, of the 
smirch left by the fancy that had driven him so relentlessly 
during the day. 

Gambara 1 87 

And yet, when he was in bed, the vision came back to 
him, but clearer and brighter than the reality. The girl 
was walking in front of him ; now and again as she stepped 
across a gutter her skirts revealed a round calf ; her shapely 
hips swayed as she walked. Again Andréa longed to speak 
to her — and he dared not, he, Marcosini, a Milanese 
nobleman ! Then he saw her turn into the dark passage 
where she had eluded him, and blamed himself for not 
having follovved her. 

' For, after ail,' said he to himself, ' if she really wished 
to avoid me and put me off her track, it is because she loves 
me. With women of that stamp, coyness is a proof of 
love. Well, if I had carried the adventure any further, it 
would, perhaps, hâve ended in disg'JSt. I will sleep in 

The Count was in the habit of analysing his keenest 
sensations, as men do involuntarily when they hâve as 
much brains as heart, and he was surprised when he saw 
the strange damsel of the Rue Froid-Manteau once more, 
not in the pictured splendour of his dream but in the bare 
reality of dreary fact. And, in spite of it ail, if fancy had 
stripped the woman of her livery of misery, it would hâve 
spoilt her for him ; for he wanted her, he longed for her, 
he loved her — with her muddy stockings, her slip-shod 
feet, her straw bonnet ! He wanted her in the very house 
where he had seen her go in. 

' Am I bewitched by vice, then ? ' he asked himself in 
dismay. ' Nay, I hâve not yet reached that point. I am 
but three and twenty, and there is nothing of the senile fop 
about me.' 

The very véhémence of the whim that held possession 
of him to some extent reassured him. This strange strug- 
gle, thèse reflections, and this love in pursuit may perhaps 
puzzle some persons who are accustomed to the ways of 
Paris life ; but they may be reminded that Count Andréa 
Marcosini was not a Frenchman. 

i88 Gambara 

Brought up by two abbés, who, in obédience to a very 
pious father, had rarely let him out of their sight, Andréa 
had not fallen in love with a cousin at the âge of eleven, 
or seduced his mother's maid by the time he was twelve ; 
he had not studied at school, where a lad does not learn 
only, or best, the subjects prescribed by the State ; he had 
lived in Paris but a few years, and he was still open to 
those sudden but deep impressions against which French 
éducation and manners are so strong a protection. In 
Southern lands a great passion is often born of a glance. 
A gentleman of Gascony who had tempered strong feel- 
ings by much reflection had fortified himself by many little 
recipes against sudden apoplexies of taste and heart, and he 
advised the Count to indulge at least once a month in a 
wild orgy to avert those storms of the soûl which, but for 
such précautions, are apt to break out at inappropriate 
moments. Andréa now remembered this advice. 

* Well,' thought he, ' I will begin to-morrow, Janu- 
ary ist.' 

This explains why Count Andréa Marcosini hovered so 
shyly before turning down the Rue Froid-Manteau. The 
man of fashion hampered the lover, and he hesitated for 
some time ; but after a final appeal to his courage he went 
on with a firm step as far as the house, which he recognised 
without difficulty. 

There he stopped once more. Was the woman really 
what he fancied her ? Was he not on the verge of some 
false move ? 

At this juncture he remembered the Italian table-d'hôte, 
and at once jumped at a middle course, which would serve 
the ends alike of his curiosity and of his réputation. He 
went in to dine, and made his way down the passage ; at 
the bottom, after feeling about for some time, he found a 
staircase with damp, slippery steps, such as to an Italian 
nobleman çould only seem a ladder. 

Gambara 189 

Invited to the first floor by the glimmer of a lamp and a 
strong smell of cooking, he pushed a door which stood ajar 
and saw a room dingy with dirt and smoke, where a wench 
was busy iaying a table for about twenty customers. None 
of the guests had yet arrived. 

After looking round the dimly lighted room where the 
paper was dropping in rags from the walls, the gentleman 
seated himself by a stove which was roaring and smoking 
in the corner. 

Attracted by the noise the Count made in coming in and 
disposing of his cloak, the major-domo presently appeared. 
Picture to yourself a lean, dried-up cook, very tall, with a 
nose of extravagant dimensions, casting about him from 
time to time, with feverish keenness, a glance that he meant 
to be cautious. On seeing Andréa, whose attire bespoke 
considérable affluence, Signor Giardini bowed respectfully. 

The Count expressed his intention of taking his meals 
as a rule in the society of some of his fellow-countrymen ; 
he paid in advance for a certain number of tickets, and 
ingenuously gave the conversation a familiar bent to enable 
him to achieve his purpose quickly. 

Hardly had he mentioned the woman he was seeking 
when Signor Giardini, with a grotesque shrug, looked 
knowingly at his customer, a bland smile on his lips. 

*■ Basta ! ' he exclaimed. ' Capisco. Your Excellency has 
come spurred by two appetites. La Signora Gambara will 
not hâve wasted her time if she has gained the interest of a 
gentleman so generous as you appear to be. I can tell you 
in a few words ail we know of the woman, who is really to 
be pitied. 

' The husband is, I believe, a native of Cremona and has 
just come hère from Germany. He was hoping to get the 
Tedeschi to try some new music and some new instruments. 
Isn't it pitiable?' said Giardini, shrugging his shoulders. 
' Signor Gambara, who thinks himself a great composer, 
does not seem to me very clever in other ways. An excel- 

190 Gambara 

lent fellow with sensé and wit, and sometimes very agree- 
able, especially when he has had a few glasses of wine — 
which does not often happen, for he is desperately poor ; 
night and day he toils at imaginary symphonies and opéras 
instead of trying to earn an honest living. His poor wife 
is reduced to working for ail sorts of people — the women 
on the streets ! What is to be said ? She loves her hus- 
band like a father, and takes care of him like a child. 

' Many a young man has dined hère to pay his court to 
Madame ; but not one has succeeded,' said he, emphasising 
the Word. ' La Signora Marianna is an honest woman, 
Monsieur, much too honest, worse luck for her ! Men 
give nothing for nothing nowadays. So the poor soûl will 
die in harness. 

'And do you suppose that her husband rewards her for 
her dévotion ? Pooh, my lord never gives her a smile ! And 
ail their cooking is donc at the baker's ; for not only does 
the w^retched man never earn a sou ; he spends ail his wife 
can make on instruments which he carves, and lengthens, 
and shortens, and sets up and takes to pièces again till they 
produce sounds that would scare a cat ; then he is happy. 
And yet you will find him the mildest, the gentlest of men. 
And he is not idle ; he is always at it. What is to be said ? 
He is crazy and does not know his business. I hâve seen 
him. Monsieur, filing and forging his instruments and eat- 
ing black bread with an appetite that I envied him — I, who 
hâve the best table in Paris. 

' Yes, Excellenza, in a quarter of an hour you shall know 
the man I am. I hâve introduced certain refinements into 
Italian cookery that will amaze you ! Excellenza, I am a 
Neapolitan — that is to say, a born cook. But of what use 
is instinct without knowledge ? Knowledge ! I hâve spent 
thirty years in acquiring it, and you see where it has left 
me. My history is that ofevery man of talent. My attempts, 
my experiments, hâve ruined three restaurants in succession 
at Naples, Parma, and Rome. To this day, when I am 

Gambara 191 

reduced to make a trade of my art, I more often than not 
give way to my ruling passion. I give thèse poor refugees 
some of my choicest dishes. I ruin myself ! Folly ! you 
will say ? 1 know it ; but how can I help it ? Genius 
carries me away, and I cannot resist concocting a dish which 
smiles on my fancy. 

*■ And they always know it, the rascals ! They know, I 
can promise you, whether I or my wife bas stood over the 
fire. And what is the conséquence ? Of sixty-odd cus- 
tomers whom I used to see at my table every day when I 
first started in this wretched place, I now see twenty on an 
average, and give them crédit for the most part. The Pied- 
montese, the Savoyards, bave deserted, but the connoisseurs, 
the true Italians, remain. And there is no sacrifice that I 
would not make for them. I often give them a dinner for 
five and twenty sous which bas cost me double.' 

Signor Giardini's speech had such a full flavour of Nea- 
politan cunning that the Count was delighted, and could 
bave fancied himself at Gérolamo's. 

' Since that is the case, my gpod friend,' said he familiarly 
to the cook, ' and since chance and your confidence bave let 
me into the secret of your daily sacrifices, allow me to pay 

As he spoke Andréa spun a forty-franc pièce on the 
stove, out of which Giardini solemnly gave bim two francs 
and fifty centimes in change, not without a certain ceremo- 
nious mystery that amused bim hugely. 

'In a few minutes now,' the man added, 'you will see 
your donnina. I will seat you next the husband, and if you 
wish to stand in bis good grâces, talk about music. I bave 
invited every one for this evening, poor things. Being 
New Year's day, I am treating the company to a dish in 
which I believe I bave surpassed myself.' 

Signor Giardini's voice was drowned by the noisy greet- 
ings of the guests, wbo streamed in two and two, or one at 
a time, after the manner of tables-d'hôte. Giardini stayed 

192 Gambara 

by the Count, playing the showman by telling him who the 
Company were. He tried by his witticisms to bring a smile 
to the lips of a man who, as his Neapolitan instinct told 
him, might be a wealthy patron to turn to good account. 

' This one,' said he, ' is a poor composer who would 
like to rise from song-writing to opéra, and cannot. He 
blâmes the managers, music-sellers, — everybody, in fact, 
but himself, and he has no worse enemy. You can see — 
what a florid complexion, what self-conceit, how little 
firmness in his features ! he is made to write ballads. 
The man who is with him, and looks like a match-hawker, 
is a great musical celebrity — Gigelmi, the greatest Italian 
conductor known ; but he has gone deaf, and is ending his 
days in penury, deprived of ail that made it tolerable. 
Ah ! hère comes our great Ottoboni, the most guileless 
old fellow on earth ; but he is suspected of being the 
most vindictive of ail who are plotting for the régénération 
of Italy. I cannot think how they can bear to banish 
such a good old man.' 

And hère Giardini looked narrowly at the Count, who, 
feeling himself under inquisition as to his politics, en- 
trenched himself in Italian impassibility. 

' A man whose business it is to cook for ail comers can 
hâve no political opinions, Excellenza,' Giardini went on. 
' But to see that worthy man, who looks more like a lamb 
than a lion, everybody would say what I say, were it 
before the Austrian ambassador himself. Besides, in thèse 
times liberty is no longer proscribed ; it is going its rounds 
again. At least, so thèse good people think,' said he, 
leaning over to speak in the Count's ear, ' and why should 
I thwart their hopes ? I, for my part, do not hâte an 
absolute government. Excellenza, every man of talent 
is for despotism ! 

*■ Well, though full of genius, Ottoboni takes no end of 
pains to educate Italy ; he writes little books to enlighten 
the intelligence of the children and the common people. 

Gambara 193 

and he smuggles them very cleverly into Italy. He takes 
immense trouble to reform the moral sensé of our luckless 
countrv, which, after ail, prefers pleasure to freedom, — 
and perhaps it is right.' 

The Count preserved such an impénétrable attitude that 
the cook could discover nothing of his political views. 

' Ottoboni,' he ran on, * is a saint ; very kind-hearted ; 
ail the refugees are fond of him ; for, Excellenza, a libéral 
may hâve his virtues. Oho ! Hère comes a journalist,* 
said Giardini, as a man came in dressed in the absurd way 
which used to be attributed to a poet in a garret ; his coat 
was threadbare, his boots split, his hat shiny, and his over- 
coat deplorably ancient. ' Excellenza, that poor man is 
full of talent, and incorruptibly honest. He was born into 
the wrong times, for he tells the truth to everybody ; no 
one can endure him. He writes theatrical articles for two 
small papers, though he is clever enough to work for the 
great dailies. Poor fellow ! 

' The rest are not worth mentioning, and Your Excel- 
lency will find them out,' he concluded, seeing that on the 
entrance of the musician's wife the Count had ceased to 
listen to him. 

On seeing Andréa hère, Signora Marianna started visibly 
and a bright blush tinged her cheeks. 

' Hère he is ! ' said Giardini, in an undertone, clutching 
the Count's arm and nodding to a tall man. *■ How pale 
and grave he is, poor man ! His hobby has not trotted to 
his mind to-day, I fancy.' 

Andrea's prepossession for Marianna was crossed by the 
captivating charm which Gambara could not fail to exert 
over every genuine artist. The composer was now forty ; 
but although his high brow was bald and lined with a 
few parallel, but not deep, wrinkles ; in spite, too, of hol- 
low temples where the blue veins showed through the 
smooth, transparent skin, and of the deep sockets in which 

194 Gambara 

his black eyes were sunk, with their large lids and light 
lashes, the lower part of his face made him still look 
young, so calm was its outline, so soft the modelling. It 
could be seen at a glance that in this man passion had 
been curbed to the advantage of the intellect ; that the 
brain alone had grown old in some great struggle. 

Andréa shot a swift look at Marianna, who was watch- 
ing him. And as he noted the beautiful Italian head, the 
exquisite proportion and rich colouring that revealed one 
of those organisations in which every human power is har- 
moniously balanced, he sounded the gulf that divided this 
couple, brought together by fate. Well content with the 
promise he inferred from this dissimilarity between the 
husband and wife, he made no attempt to control a liking 
which ought to hâve raised a barrier between the fair Mari- 
anna and himself. He was already conscious of feeling a 
sort of respectful pity for this man, whose only joy she was, 
as he understood the dignified and serene acceptance of ill 
fortune that was expressed in Gambara's mild and melan- 
choly gaze. 

After expecting to see one of the grotesque figures so 
often set before us by German novelists and the writers of 
libretti^ he beheld a simple, unpretentious man, whose man- 
ners and demeanour were in nothing strange and did not 
lack dignity. Without the faintest trace of luxury, his 
dress was more décent than might hâve been expected from 
his extrême poverty, and his linen bore witness to the ten- 
der care which watched over every détail of his existence. 
Andréa looked at Marianna with moistened eyes ; and she 
did not colour, but half smiled, in a way that betrayed, 
perhaps, some pride at this speechless homage. The Count, 
too thoroughly fascinated to miss the smallest indication 
of complaisance, fancied that she must love him, since she 
understood him so well. 

From this moment he set himself to conquer the hus- 
band rather than the wife, turning ail his batteries against 

Gambara 195 

poor Gambara, who quite guilelessly went on eating Signor 
Giardini's bocconi^ without thinking of their flavour. 

The Count opened the conversation on some trivial sub- 
ject, but at the first words he perceived that this brain, sup- 
posed to be infatuated on one point, was remarkably clear 
on ail others, and saw that it would be far more important 
to enter into this very clever man's ideas than to flatter his 

The rest of the company, a hungry crew whose brain 
only responded to the sight of a more or less good meal, 
showed much animosity to the luckless Gambara, and 
waited only till the end of the first course, to give free 
vent to their satire. A refugee, whose fréquent leer be- 
trayed ambitious schemes on Marianna, and who fancied 
he could establish himself in her good grâces by trying to 
make her husband ridiculous, opened fire to show the new- 
comer how the land lay at the table-d'hôte. 

' It is a very long time since we hâve heard anything 
about the opéra on " Mahomet " ! ' cried he, with a smile 
at Marianna. ' Can it be that Paolo Gambara, wholly 
given up to domestic cares, absorbed by the charms of the 
chimney-corner, is neglecting his superhuman genius, leav- 
ing his talents to get cold and his imagination to go flat ? ' 

Gambara knew ail the company ; he dwelt in a sphère 
so far above them ail that he no longer cared to repel an 
attack. He made no reply. 

' It is not given to everybody,' said the journalist, ' to 
hâve an intellect that can understand Monsieur Gambara's 
musical efforts, and that, no doubt, is why our divine 
maestro hésitâtes to corne before the worthy Parisian 

' And yet,' said the ballad-monger, who had not opened 
his mouth but to swallow everything that came within his 
reach, * I know some men of talent who think highly of 
the judgments of Parisian critics. I myself hâve a pretty 
réputation as a musician,' he went on, with an air of diffi- 

196 Gambara 

dence. ' I owe it solely to my little songs în vaudevilles^ 
and the success of my dance music in drawing-rooms ; but 
I propose ère long to bring out a mass composed for the 
anniversary of Beethoven's death, and I expect to be better 
appreciated in Paris than anywhere else. You will perhaps 
do me the honour of hearing it ? ' he said, turning to Andréa. 

' Thank you,' said the Count. ' But I do not conceive 
that I am gifted with the organs needful for the apprécia- 
tion of French music. If you were dead, Monsieur, and 
Beethoven had composed the mass, I would not hâve 
failed to attend the performance.' 

This retort put an end to the tactics of those who wanted 
to set Gambara ofF on his high horse to amuse the new 
guest. Andréa was already conscious of an unwillingness 
to expose so noble and pathetic a mania as a spectacle for 
so much vulgar shrewdness. It was with no base réserva- 
tion that he kept up a desultory conversation, in the course 
of which Signor Giardini's nose not infrequently interposed 
between two remarks. Whenever Gambara uttered some 
élégant repartee or some paradoxical aphorism, the cook 
put his head forward, to glance with pity at the musician 
and with meaning at the Count, muttering in his ear, 
' E matto ! ' 

Then came a moment when the chef interrupted the 
flow of his judicial observations to dévote himself to the 
second course, which he considered highly important. Dur- 
ing his absence, which was brief, Gambara leaned across to 
address Andréa. 

' Our worthy host,' said he, in an undertone, '■ threatens 
to regale us to-day with a dish of his own concocting, 
which I recommend you to avoid, though his wife has had 
an eye on him. The good man has a mania for innova- 
tions. He ruined himself by experiments, the last of which 
compelled him to fly from Rome without a passport — a 
circumstance he does not talk about. After purchasing the 
good-will of a popular restaurant he was trusted to prépare 

Gambara 197 

a banquet given by a lately made Cardinal, whose House- 
hold was not yet complète. Giardini fancied he had an 
opportunity for distinguishing himself — and he succeeded ! 
for that same evening he was accused of trying to poison 
the vvhole conclave, and was obliged to leave Rome and 
Italy without waiting to pack up. This disaster was the 
last straw. Now,' and Gambara put his finger to his fore- 
head and shook his head. 

*■ He is a good fellow, ail the same,' he added. ' My 
wife will tell you that we owe him many a good turn.' 

Giardini now came in carefuUy bearing a dish which he 
set in the middle of the table, and he then modestly resumed 
his seat next to Andréa, whom he served first. As soon 
as he had tasted the mess, the Count felt that an impassa- 
ble gulf divided the second mouthful from the first. He 
was much embarrassed, and very anxious not to annoy the 
cook, who was watching him narrowly. Though a French 
restaurateur may care little about seeing a dish scorned if he 
is sure of being paid for it, it is not so with an Italian, who 
is not often satiated with praises. 

To gain time, Andréa complimented Giardini enthusias- 
tically, but he leaned over to whisper in his ear, and slip- 
ping a gold pièce into his hand under the table, begged him 
to go out and buy a few bottles of Champagne, leaving him 
free to take ail the crédit of the treat. 

When the Italian returned, every plate was cleared, and 
the room rang with praises of the master-cook. The 
Champagne soon mounted thèse southern brains, and the 
conversation, till now subdued in the stranger's présence, 
overleaped the limits of suspicious reserve to wander far 
over the wide fields of political and artistic opinions. 

Andréa, to whom no form of intoxication was known 
but those of love and poetry, had soon gained the atten- 
tion of the Company and skilfully led it to a discussion 
of matters musical. 

' Will you tell me. Monsieur,' said he to the composer 

198 Gambara 

of dance-music, ' how it is that the Napoléon of thèse 
tunes can condescend to usurp the place of Palestrina, 
Pergolesi, and Mozart, — poor créatures who must pack 
and vanish at the advent of that tremendous Mass for the 
Dead ? ' 

' Well, Monsieur,' replied the composer, ' a musician 
always finds it difficult to reply when the answer needs 
the coopération of a hundred skilled exécutants. Mozart, 
Haydn, and Beethoven, without an orchestra, would be of 
no great account.' 

' Of no great account ! ' said Marcosini. ' Why, ail the 
world knows that the immortal author of Don Giovanni and 
the Requiem was named Mozart ; and I am so unhappy 
as not to know the name of the inexhaustible writer of 
quadrilles which are so popular in our drawing-rooms ' 

' Music exists independently of exécution,' said the re- 
tired conductor, who, in spite of his deafness, had caught 
a few words of the conversation. 'As he looks through 
the C-minor symphony by Beethoven, a musician is trans- 
ported to the world of fancy on the golden wings of the 
subject in G-natural repeated by the horns in E. He sees 
a whole realm, by turns glorious in dazzling shafts of light, 
gloomy under clouds of melancholy, and cheered by heav- 
enly strains.' 

'■ The new school has left Beethoven far behind,' said 
the ballad-writer, scornfully. 

' Beethoven is not yet understood,' said the Count. 
' How can he be excelled ? ' 

Gambara drank a large glass of Champagne, accompany- 
ing the draught by a covert smile of approval. 

' Beethoven,' the Count went on, ' extended the limits 
of instrumental music, and no one has followed in his 

Gambara assented with a nod. 

' His work is especially noteworthy for simplicity of con- 
struction and for the way the scheme is worked out,' the 

Gambara 199 

Count went on. ' Most composers make use of the 
orchestral parts in a vague, incohérent way, combining 
them for a merely temporary effect ; they do not per- 
sistently contribute to the whole mass of the movement by 
their steady and regular progress. Beethoven assigns its 
part to each tone-quality from the first. Like the various 
companies which, by their disciplined movements, contrib- 
ute to winning a battle, the orchestral parts of a sym- 
phony by Beethoven obey the plan ordered for the interest 
of ail, and are subordinate to an admirably conceived 

' In this he may be compared to a genius of a différent 
type. In Walter Scott's splendid historical novels, some 
personage, who seems to hâve least to do with the action 
of the story, intervenes at a given moment and leads up to 
climax by some thread woven into the plot.' 

'■ E vero!' remarked Gambara, to w^hom common sensé 
seemed to return in inverse proportion to sobriety. 

Andréa, eager to carry the test further, for a moment 
forgot ail his prédilections ; he proceeded to attack the 
European famé of Rossini, disputing the position which 
the Italian school has taken by storm, night after night 
for more than thirty years, on a hundred stages in Europe. 
He had undertaken a hard task. The first vi^ords he spoke 
raised a strong murmur of disapproval ; but neither re- 
peated interruptions, nor exclamations, nor frovi^ns, nor 
contemptuous looks, could check this determined advocate 
of Beethoven. 

' Compare,' said he, ' that sublime composer's works 
with what by common consent is called Italian music. 
What feebleness of ideas, what limpness of style ! That 
monotony of form, those commonplace cadenzas, those 
endless bravura passages introduced at haphazard irrespec- 
tive of the dramatic situation, that récurrent crescendo that 
Rossini brought into vogue, are now an intégral part of 
every composition ; those vocal fireworks resuit in a sort 

200 Gambara 

of babbling, chattering, vaporous music, of which the sole 
merit dépends on the greater or less fluency of the singer 
and his rapidity of vocalisation. 

' The Italian school has lost sight of the high mission 
of art. Instead of elevating the crowd, it has conde- 
scended to the crowd ; it has won its success only by 
accepting the suffrages of ail corners, and appealing to the 
vulgar minds which constitute the majority. Such a 
success is mère street juggling. 

' In short, the compositions of Rossini, in whom this 
music is personified, with those of the writers who are 
more or less of his school, to me seem worthy at best to 
collect a crowd in the street round a grinding organ, as 
an accompaniment to the capers of a puppet show. I 
even prefer French music, and I can say no more. Long 
live German music ! ' cried he, ' when it is tuneful,' he 
added in a low voice. 

This sally was the upshot of a long preliminary discus- 
sion, in which, for more than a quarter of an hour, 
Andréa had divagated in the upper sphère of metaphysics, 
with the ease of a somnambulist walking over the roofs. 

Gambara, keenly interested in ail this transcendentalism, 
had not lost a word ; he took up his parable as soon as 
Andréa seemed to hâve ended, and a little stir of revived 
attention was évident among the guests, of whom several 
had been about to leave. 

' You attack the Italian school with much vigour,' said 
Gambara, somewhat warmed to his work by the Cham- 
pagne, * and, for my part, you are very welcome. I, thank 
God, stand outside this more or less mélodie frippery. 
Still, as a man of the world, you are too ungrateful to 
the classic land whence Germany and France derived their 
first teaching. While the compositions of Carissimi, 
Cavalli, Scarlatti, and Rossi were being played throughout 
Italy, the violin players of the Paris opéra house enjoyed 
the singular privilège of being allowed to play in gloves. 

Gambara 201 

Lulli, who extended the realm of harmony, and was the 
first to classify discords, on arriving in France found but 
two mcn — a cook and a mason — whose voice and intel- 
ligence were equal to performing his music ; he made a 
ténor of the former, and transformed the latter into a bass. 
At that time Germany had no musician excepting Sébastian 
Bach. — But you, Monsieur, though you are so young,' 
Gambara added, in the humble tone of a man who expects 
to find his remarks received with scorn or ill-nature, 
' must hâve given much time to the study of thèse high 
matters of art ; you could not otherwise explain them so 

This Word made many of the hearers smile, for they 
had understood nothing of the fine distinctions drawn by 
Andréa. Giardini, indeed, convinced that the Count had 
been talking mère rodomontade, nudged him with a laugh 
in his sleeve, as at a good joke in which he flattered him- 
self that he was a partner. 

'There is a great deal that strikes me as very true in 
ail you hâve said,' Gambara went on ; ' but be careful. 
Your argument, while reflecting on Italian sensuality, 
seems to me to lean towards German idealism, which is 
a no less fatal heresy. If men of imagination and good 
sensé, like you, désert one camp only to join the other; 
if they cannot keep to the happy médium between two 
forms of extravagance, we shall always be exposed to the 
satire of the sophists, who deny ail progress, who compare 
the genius of man to this tablecloth, which, being too short 
to cover the whole of Signor Giardini's table, decks one 
end at the expense of the other.' 

Giardini bounded in his seat as if he had been stung by 
a horse-fly, but swift reflection restored him to his dignity 
as a host ; he looked up to heaven and again nudged the 
Count, who was beginning to think the cook more crazy 
than Gambara. 

This serious and pious way of speaking of art interested 

202 Gambara 

the Milanese extremely. Seated between thèse two dis- 
tracted brains, one so noble and the other so common, and 
making game of each other to the great entertainment of 
the crowd, there was a moment when the Count found him- 
self wavering between the sublime and its parody, the 
farcical extrêmes of human life. Ignoring the chain of 
incredible events which had brought him to this smoky 
den, he believed himself to be the plaything of some strange 
hallucination, and thought of Gambara and Giardini as 
two abstractions. 

Meanwhile, after a last pièce of bufFoonery from the deaf 
conductor in reply to Gambara, the company had broken 
up laughing loudly. Giardini went off to make coftee, 
which he begged the sélect few to accept, and his wife 
cleared the table. The Count, sitting near the stove 
between Marianna and Gambara, was in the very position 
which the mad musician thought most désirable, with 
sensuousness on one side and idealism on the other. Gam- 
bara, finding himself for the first time in the society of a 
man who did not laugh at him to his face, soon diverged 
from generalities to talk of himself, of his life, his work, 
and the musical régénération of which he believed himself 
to be the Messiah. 

' Listen,' said he, ' you who so far hâve not insulted me. 
I will tell you the story of my life ; not to make a boast of 
my persévérance, which is no virtue of mine, but to the 
greater glory of Him who has given me His strength. You 
seem kind and pious ; if you do not believe in me at least 
you will pity me. Pity is human ; faith comes from God.' 

Andréa turned and drew back under his chair the foot 
that had been seeking that of the fair Marianna, fixing his 
eyes on her while listening to Gambara. 

' I was born at Cremona, the son of an instrument 
maker, a fairly good performer and an even better com- 
poser,' the musician began. ' Thus at an early âge I had 

Gambara 203 

mastered the laws of musical construction in its twofold 
aspects, the material and the spiritual ; and as an inquisi- 
tive child I observed many things which subsequently re- 
curred to the mind of the full-grown man. 

'The French turned us out of our own home — my 
father and me. We were ruined by the war. Thus, at 
the âge of ten I entered on the wandering life to which 
most men hâve been condemned whose brains were busy 
with innovations, whether in art, science, or politics. 
Fate, or the instincts of their mind which cannot fit into 
the compartments where the trading class sit, providentially 
guides them to the spots where they may find teaching, 
Led by my passion for music I wandered throughout Italy 
from théâtre to théâtre, living on very little, as men can 
live there. Sometimes I played the bass in an orchestra, 
sometimes I was on the boards in the chorus, sometimes 
under them with the carpenters. Thus I learned every 
kind of musical effect, studying the tones of instruments 
and of the human voice, wherein they dift'ered and how 
they harmonised, listening to the score and applying the 
rules taught me by my father. 

* It was hungry work, in a land where the sun always 
shines, where art is ail pervading, but where there is no 
pay for the artist, since Rome is but nominally the Sover- 
eign of the Christian world. Sometimes made welcome, 
sometimes scouted for my poverty, I never lost courage. I 
heard a voice within me promising me famé. 

' Music seemed to me in its infancy, and I think so still. 
Ail that is left to us of musical effort before the seventeenth 
century, proves to me that early musicians knew melody 
only ; they were ignorant of harmony and its immense 
resources. Music is at once a science and an art. It is 
rooted in physics and mathematics, hence it is a science ; 
inspiration makes it an art, unconsciously utilising the 
theorems of science. It is founded in physics by the 
very nature of the matter it works on. Sound is air in 

204 Gambara 

motion. The air is formed of constituents which, in us, 
no doubt, meet with analogous éléments that respond to 
them, sympathise, and magnify them by the power of the 
mind. Thus the air must include a vast variety of molé- 
cules of various d^grees of elasticity, and capable of vibrat- 
ing in as many différent periods as there are tones from 
ail kinds of sonorous bodies ; and thèse molécules, set in 
motion by the musician and falling on our ear, answer to 
our ideas, according to each man's tempérament. I my- 
self believe that sound is identical in its nature with light. 
Sound is light, perceived under another form ; each acts 
through vibrations to which man is sensitive and which he 
transforms, in the nervous centres, into ideas. 

' Music, like painting, makes use of materials which hâve 
the property of liberating this or that property from the 
surrounding médium and so suggesting an image. The 
instruments in music perform this part, as colour does in 
painting. And whereas each sound produced by a sono- 
rous body is invariably allied with its major third and fifth, 
whereas it acts on grains of fine sand lying on stretched 
parchment so as to distribute them in geometrical figures 
that are always the same, according to the pitch, — quite 
regular when the combination is a true chord, and indefi- 
nite when the sounds are dissonant, — I say that music is 
an art conceived in the very bowels of nature. 

*■ Music is subject to physical and mathematical laws. 
Physical laws are but Httle known, mathematics are well 
understood ; and it is since their relations hâve been studied, 
that the harmony has been created to which we owe the 
Works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Rossini, grand 
geniuses, whose music is undoubtedly nearer to perfection 
than that of their precursors, though their genius, too, is 
unquestionable. The old masters could sing, but they had 
not art and science at their command, — a noble alliance 
which enables us to merge into one the finest melody and 
the power of harmony. 

Gambara 205 

' Now, if a knowledge of mathematical laws gave us 
thèse four great musicians, what may we not attain to if 
we can discover the physical laws in virtue of which — 
grasp this clearly — we may collect, in larger or smaller 
quantifies, according to the proportions we may require, 
an ethereal substance diffused in the atmosphère which is 
the médium alike of music and of Hght, of the phenomena 
of végétation and of animal life ! Do you follow me ? 
Those new laws would arm the composer with new 
powers by supplying him with instruments superior to 
those now in use, and perhaps with a potency of har- 
mony immense as compared with that now at his com- 
mand. If every modified shade of sound answers to a 
force, that must be known to enable us to combine ail 
thèse forces in accordance with their true laws. 

* Composers work with substances of which they know 
nothing. Why should a brass and a wooden instrument 
— a bassoon and horn — hâve so little identity of tone, 
when they act on the same matter, the constituent gases 
of the air ? Their différences proceed from some displace- 
ment of those constituents, from the way they act on the 
éléments which are their affinity and which they return, 
modified by some occult and unknown process. If we 
knew what the process was, science and art would both 
be the gainers. Whatever extends science enhances art. 

'Well, thèse are the discoveries I hâve guessed and 
made. Yes,' said Gambara, with increasing véhémence, 
' hitherto men hâve noted effects rather than causes. If 
they could but master the causes, music would be the great- 
est of the arts. Is it not the one which strikes deepest to 
the soûl ? You see in painting no more than it shows 
you ; in poetry you hâve only what the poet says ; music 
goes far beyond this. Does it not form your taste, and 
rouse dormant memories ? In a concert-room there may 
be a thousand soûls ; a strain is flung out from Pasta's 
throat, the exécution worthily answering to the ideas that 

2o6 Gambara 

flashed through Rossini's mind as he wrote the air. That 
phrase of Rossini's, transmitted to those attentive soûls, is 
worked out in so many différent poems. To one it pré- 
sents a woman long dreamed of ; to another, some distant 
shore where he wandered long ago. It rises up before 
him with its drooping willows, its clear waters, and the 
hopes that then played under its leafy arbours. One 
woman is reminded of the myriad feelings that tortured 
her during an hour of jealousy, while another thinks of the 
unsatisfied cravings of her heart, and paints in the glowing 
hues of a dream an idéal lover, to whom she abandons 
herself w^ith the rapture of the vi^oman in the Roman 
mosaic who embraces a chimera ; yet a third is thinking 
that this very evening some hoped-for joy is to be hers, 
and rushes by anticipation into the tide of happiness, 
its dashing waves breaking against her burning bosom. 
Music alone bas this power of throwing us back on 
ourselves ; the other arts give us finite pleasure. But I 
am digressing. 

*■ Thèse were my first ideas, vague indeed ; for an inventer 
at the beginning only catches glimpses of the dawn, as it 
were. So I kept thèse glorious ideas at the bottom of my 
knapsack, and they gave me spirit to eat the dry crust I 
often dipped in the water of a spring. I worked, I com- 
posed airs, and, after playing them on any instrument that 
came to hand, I went off again on foot across Italy. 
Finally, at the âge of two and twenty, I settled in Venice, 
where for the first time I enjoyed rest and found myself 
in a décent position. I there made the acquaintance of a 
Venetian nobleman who liked my ideas, who encouraged 
me in my investigations, and who got me employment at 
the Venice théâtre. 

*■ Living was cheap, lodging inexpensive. I had a room 
in that Capello palace from which the famous Bianca 
came forth one evening to become a Grand Duchess of 
Tuscany. And I would dream that my unrecognised 

Gambara 207 

famé would also émerge from thence one day to be 

' I spent my evenings at the théâtre and my days in 
work. Then came disaster. The performance of an 
opéra in which I had experimented, trying my music, was 
a failure. No one understood my score for the Martiri. 
Set Beethoven before the Italians and they are out of their 
depth. No one had patience enough to wait for the effect 
to be produced by the différent motives given out by each 
instrument, which were ail at last to combine in a grand 

' I had built some hopes on the success of the Martiri^ 
for we votaries of the blue divinity Hope always discount 
results. When a man believes himself destined to do great 
things, it is hard not to fancy them achieved ; the bushel 
always has some cracks through which the light shines. 

' My wife's family lodged in the same house, and the 
hope of winning Marianna, who often smiled at me from 
her window, had done much to encourage my efforts. I 
now fell into the deepest melancholy as I sounded the 
depths of the gulf I had dropped into ; for I foresaw 
plainly a life of poverty, a perpétuai struggle in which 
love must die. Marianna acted as genius does ; she 
jumped across every obstacle, both feet at once. I will 
not speak of the little happiness which shed its gilding on 
the beginning of my misfortunes. Dismayed at my fail- 
ure, I decided that Italy was not intelligent enough, and 
too much sunk in the dull round of routine to accept the 
innovations I conceived ofj so I thought of going to 

' I travelled thither by way of Hungary, listening to the 
myriad voices of nature, and trying to reproduce that 
sublime harmony by the help of instruments which I con- 
structed or altered for the purpose. Thèse experiments 
involved me in vast expenses which had soon exhausted 
my savings. And yet those were our golden days. In 

2o8 Gambara 

Germany I was appreciated. There has been nothing in 
my life more glorious than that time. I can think of 
nothing to compare with the véhément joys I found by 
the side of Marianna, whose beauty was then of really 
heavenly radiance and splendour. In short, I was happy. 

' During that period of weakness I more than once 
expressed my passion in the language of earthly harmony. 
I even wrote some of those airs, just like geometrical pat- 
terns, which are so much admired in the world of fashion 
that you move in. But as soon as I made a little way I 
met with insuperable obstacles raised by my rivais, ail 
hypercritical or unappreciative. 

' I had heard of France as being a country where nov- 
elties were favourably received, and I wanted to get there ; 
my wife had a little money and we came to Paris. Till 
then no one had actually laughed in my face ; but in this 
dreadful city I had to endure that new form of torture, 
to which abject poverty ère long added its bitter sufFerings. 
Reduced to lodging in this mephitic quarter, for many 
months we hâve lived exclusively on Marianna's sewing, 
she having found employment for her needle in working 
for the unhappy prostitutes who make this street their 
hunting ground. Marianna assures me that among those 
poor créatures she has met with such considération and 
generosity as I, for my part, ascribe to the ascendancy of 
virtue so pure that even vice is compelled to respect it.' 

' Hope on,' said Andréa. ' Perhaps you hâve reached the 
end of your trials. And while waiting for the time when 
my endeavour, seconding yours, shall set your labours in a 
true light, allow me, as a fellow-countryman and an artist 
like yourself, to offer you some little advance on the un- 
doubted success of your score.' 

'Ail that has to do with matters of material existence I 
leave to my wife,' replied Gambara. 'She will décide as 
to what we may accept without a blush from so thorough 
a gentleman as you seem to be. For my part, — and it is 

Gambara 209 

long since I hâve allowed myself to indulge such full confi- 
dences, — I must now ask you to allow me to leave you. 
I see a melody beckoning to me, dancing and floating 
before me, bare and quivering, like a girl entreating her 
lover for her clothes which he has hidden. Good-night. 
I must go and dress my mistress. My wife I leave with 

He hurried away, as a man who blâmes himself for the 
loss of valuable time; and Marianna, somewhat embar- 
rassed, prepared to follow him. 

Andréa dared not detain her. 

Giardini came to the rescue. 

' But vou heard, Signora,' said he. ' Your husband has 
left you to settle some little matters with the Signor Conte.' 

Marianna sat down again, but without raising her eyes 
to Andréa, who hesitated before speaking. 

' And will not Signor Gambara's confidence entitle me 
to his wife's ? ' he said in agitated tones. * Can the fair 
Marianna refuse to tell me the story of her life ? ' 

' My life ! ' said Marianna. ' It is the life of the ivy. 
If you wish to know the story of my heart, you must sup- 
pose me equally destitute of pride and of modesty if you 
can ask me to tell it after what you hâve just heard.' 

' Of whom, then, can I ask it ? ' cried the Count, in 
whom passion was blinding his wits. 

' Of yourself,' replied Marianna. ' Either you under- 
stand me by this time, or you never will. Try to ask 

' I will, but you must listen. And this hand, which I 
am holding, is to lie in mine as long as my narrative is 

' I am listening,' said Marianna. 

' A woman's life begins with her first passion,' said 

Andréa. ' And my dear Marianna began to live only on 

the day when she first saw Paolo Gambara. She needed 

some deep passion to feed upon, and, above ail, some inter- 


aïo Gambara 

esting weakness to shelter and uphold. The beautiful 
woman's nature with which she is endowed is perhaps not 
so truly passion as maternai love. 

' You sigh, Marianna ? I hâve touched one of the 
aching wounds in your heart. It wzs a noble part for you 
to play, so young as you were, — that of protectress to 
a noble but wandering intellect. You said to yourself: 
" Paolo will be my genius ; I shall be his common sensé ; 
between us we shall be that almost divine being called an 
angel, — the sublime créature that enjoys and understands, 
reason never stifling love." 

' And then, in the first impetus of youth, you heard the 
thousand voices of nature which the poet longed to repro- 
duce. Enthusiasm clutched you vi^hen Paolo spread before 
you the treasures of poetry, while seeking to embody them 
in the sublime but restricted language of music ; you 
admired him vv^hen delirious rapture carried him up and 
away from you, for you liked to believe that ail this devi- 
ous energy would at last come down and alight as love. 
But you knew not the tyrannous and jealous despotism 
of the idéal over the minds that fall in love with it. 
Gambara, before meeting you, had given himself over to 
the haughty and overbearing mistress, with whom you hâve 
struggled for him to this day. 

' Once, for an instant, you had a vision of happiness. 
Paolo, tumbling from the lofty sphère where his spirit was 
constantly soaring, was amazed to find reality so sweet ; 
you fancied that his madness would be lulled in the arms 
of love. But before long Music again clutched her prey. 
The dazzling mirage which had cheated you into the joys 
of reciprocal love made the lonely path on which you had 
started look more desolate and barren. 

' In the taie your husband has just told me, I could read, 
as plainly as in the contrast between your looks and his, 
ail the painful secrets of that ill-assorted union, in which 
you hâve accepted the sufferer's part. Though your con- 

Gambara 211 

duct has been unfailingly heroical, though your firmness 
has never once given way in the exercise of your painful 
duties, perhaps, in the silence of lonely nights, the heart 
that at this moment is beating so wildly in your breast, 
may, from time to time, hâve rebelled. Your husband's 
superiority was in itself your worst torment. If he had 
been less noble, less single-minded, you might hâve de- 
serted him; but his virtues upheld yours ; you wondered, 
perhaps, whether his heroism or your own would be the 
first to give way. 

'You clung to your really magnanimous task as Paolo 
clung to his chimera. If you had had nothing but a 
dévotion to duty to guide and sustain you, triumph might 
hâve seemed easier; you would only hâve had to crush 
your heart, and transfer your life into the world of ab- 
stractions ; religion would hâve absorbed ail else, and you 
would hâve lived for an idea, like those saintly women 
who kill ail the instincts of nature at the foot of the altar. 
But the all-pervading charm of Paolo, the loftiness of his 
mind, his rare and touching proofs of tenderness, constantly 
drag you down from that idéal realm where virtue would 
fain maintain you ; they perennially revive in you the 
énergies you hâve exhausted in contending with the phan- 
tom of love. You never suspected this ! The faintest 
glimmer of hope led you on in pursuit of the sweet 

'At last the disappointments of many years hâve under- 
mined your patience, — an angel would hâve lost it long 
since, — and now the apparition so long pursued is no 
more than a shade without substance. Madness that is 
so nearly allied to genius can know no cure in this world. 
When this thought first struck you, you looked back on 
your past youth, sacrificed, if not wasted ; you then bitterly 
discerned the blunder of nature that had given you a father 
when you looked for a husband. You asked yourself 
whether you had not gone beyond the duty of a wife in 

212 Gambara 

keeping yourself wholly for a man who was bound up in 
his science. Marianna, leave your hand in mine ; ail I 
hâve said is true. And you looked about you — but now 
you were in Paris, not in Italy, where men know how to 
love ' 

*Oh! Let me finish the taie,' cried Marianna. *I 
would rather say things myself. I will be honest ; I feel 
that I _am speaking to my truest friend. Yes, I was in 
Paris vi^hen ail you hâve expressed so clearly took place 
in my mind ; but when I saw you I wzs saved, for I had 
never met with the love I had dreamed of from my child- 
hood. My poor dress and my dwelling-place had hidden 
me from the eyes of men of your class. A few young 
men, whose position did not allow of their insulting me, 
w^ere ail the more intolérable for the levity with which 
they treated me. Some made game of my husband, as if 
he were merely a ridiculous old man ; others basely tried 
to win his good grâces to betray him ; one and ail talked 
of getting me away from him, and none understood the 
dévotion I feel for a soûl that is so far away from us only 
because it is so near heaven, for that friend, that brother, 
whose handmaid I will always be. 

' You alone understood, did you not ? the tie that binds 
me to him. Tell me that you feel a sincère and disin- 
terested regard for my Paolo ' 

' I gladly accept your praises,' Andréa interrupted ; * but 
go no further ; do not compel me to contradict you. I 
love you, Marianna, as we love in the beautiful country 
where we both were born. I love you with ail my soûl 
and with ail my strength ; but before ofFering you that 
love, I will be worthy of yours. I will make a last 
attempt to give back to you the man you hâve loved so 
long and will love forever. Till success or defeat is cer- 
tain, accept without any shame the modest ease I can give 
you both. We will go to-morrow and choose a place 
where he may live. 

Gambara 213 

' Hâve you such regard for me as will allow you to make 
me the partner in your guardianship ? ' 

Marianna, surprised at such magnanimity, held out her 
hand to the Count, who went away, trying to évade the 
civilities of Giardini and his wife. 

On the following day Giardini took the Count up to 
the room where the Gambaras lodged. Though Marianna 
fully knew her lover's noble soûl, — for there are natures 
which quickly enter into each other's spirit, — Marianna 
was too good a housewife not to betray her annoyance at 
receiving such a fine gentleman in so humble a room. 
Everything was exquisitely clean. She had spent the 
morning in dusting her motley furniture, the handiwork 
of Signor Giardini, who had put it together, at odd moments 
of leisure, out of the fragments of the instruments rejected 
by Gambara. 

Andréa had never seen anything quite so crazy. To 
keep a décent countenance he turned away from a gro- 
tesque bed, contrived by the ingenious cook in the case 
of an old harpsichord, and looked at Marianna's narrow 
couch, of which the single mattress was covered with a 
white muslin counterpane, a circumstance that gave rise 
in his mind to some sad but sweet thoughts. 

He wished to speak of his plans and of his morning's 
work; but Gambara, in his enthusiasm, believing that he 
had at last met with a willing listener, took possession of 
him, and compelled him to listen to the opéra he had 
written for Paris. 

* In the first place, Monsieur,' said the composer, ' allow 
me to explain the subject in a few words. Hère, the hear- 
ers receiving a musical impression do not work it out in 
themselves, as religion bids us work out the texts of Script- 
ure in prayer. Hence it is very difficult to make them 
understand that there is in nature an eternal melody, exqui- 
sitely sweet, a perfect harmony, disturbed only by révolutions 

214 Gambara 

independent of the divine will, as passions are uncontrolled 
by the will of men. 

' I, therefore, had to seek a vast Framework in which 
efFect and cause might both be included ; for the aim of my 
music is to give a picture of the life of nations from the 
loftiest point of view. My opéra, for which I myself wrote 
the libretto^ for a poet would never hâve fully developed the 
subject, is the life of Mahomet, — a figure in whom the 
magie of Sabaeanism combined with the Oriental poetry of 
the Hebrew Scriptures to resuit in one of the greatest 
human epics, the Arab dominion. Mahomet certainly 
derived from the Hebrews the idea of a despotic govern- 
ment, and from the religion of the shepherd tribes or 
Sabaeans the spirit of expansion which created the splendid 
empire of the Khalifs. His destiny was stamped on him 
in his birth, for his father was a heathen and his mother 
a Jewess. Ah ! my dear Count, to be a great musician a 
man must be very learned. Without knowledge he can 
get no local colour and put no ideas into his music. The 
composer who sings for singing's sake is an artisan, not 
an artist. 

'This magnificent opéra is the continuation of the great 
work I projected. My first opéra was called The Martyrs^ 
and I intend to write a third on Jérusalem delivered. You 
perceive the beauty of this trilogy and what a variety of 
motives it ofFers, — the Martyrs, Mahomet, the Deliver- 
ance of Jérusalem : the God of the West, the God of the 
East, and the struggle of their worshippers over a tomb. 
But we will not dwell on my famé, now for ever lost. 

' This is the argument of my opéra.' He paused. 
' The first act,' he went on, ' shows Mahomet as a porter 
to Kadijah, a rich widow with whom his uncle placed 
him. He is in love and ambitious. Driven from Mecca, 
he escapes to Médina, and dates his era from his flight, 
the Hegira. In the second act he is a Prophet, founding 
a militant religion. In the third, disgusted with ail things, 

Gambara 215 

having exhausted life, Mahomet conceals the manner of his 
death in the hope of being regarded as a god, — last effort 
of human pride. 

' Now you shall judge of my way of expressing in sound 
a great idea, for which poetry could find no adéquate ex- 
pression in words.' 

Gambara sat down to the piano with an absorbed gaze, 
and his wife brought him the mass of papers forming his 
score ; but he did not open them. 

' The whole opéra,' said he, '• is founded on a bass, as on 
a fruitful soil. Mahomet was to hâve a majestic bass 
voice, and his wife necessarily had a contralto. Kadijah 
was quite old — twenty ! Attention! This is the over- 
ture. It begins with an andajite in C major, triple time. 
Do you hear the sadness of the ambitious man who is not 
satisfied with love ? Then, through his lamentation, by a 
transition to the key of E flat, allegro^ common time, we 
hear the cries of the epileptic lover, his fury and certain 
warlike phrases, for the mighty scimitar of the Khalifs 
begins to gleam before him. The charms of the one and 
only woman give him the impulse to multiplied loves 
which strikes us in Don Giovanni. Now, as you hear 
thèse thèmes, do you not catch a glimpse of Mahomet's 
Paradis e ? 

' And next we hâve a cantabile (A flat major, six-eight 
time), that might expand the soûl that is least susceptible 
to music. Kadijah has understood Mahomet ! Then 
Kadijah announces to the populace the Prophet's inter- 
views with the Angel Gabriel {maestoso sostenuto in F 
major). The magistrates and priests, power and religion, 
feeling themselves attacked by the innovator, as Christ and 
Socrates also attacked efFete or worn-out powers and re- 
ligions, persécute Mahomet and drive him out of Mecca 
{stretto in C major). Then comes my beautiful dominant 
(G major, common time). Arabia now hearkens to the 
Prophet ; horsemen arrive (G major, E flat, B flat, G 

2 1 6 Gambara 

minor, and still common time). The mass of men gathers 
like an avalanche ; the false Prophet has begun on a tribe 
the work he will achieve over a world (G major). 

' He promises the Arabs universal dominion, and they 
believe him because he is inspired. The crescendo begins 
(still in the dominant). Hère corne some flourishes (in 
C major) from the brass, founded on the harmony, but 
strongly marked, and asserting themselves as an expression 
of the first triumphs. Médina has gone over to the 
Prophet, and the whole army marches on Mecca (an ex- 
plosion of Sound in C major). The whole pow^er of the 
orchestra is w^orked up like a conflagration ; every instru- 
ment is employed ; it is a torrent of harmony. 

' Suddenly the tutti is interrupted by a flowing air (on 
the minor third). You hear the last strain of devoted love. 
The woman u^ho had upheld the great man dies concealing 
her despair, dies at the moment of triumph for him in 
whom love has become too overbearing to be content with 
one u^oman ; and she worships him enough to sacrifice 
herself to the greatness of the man who is killing her. 
What a blaze of love ! 

' Then the Désert rises to overrun the world (back to 
C major). The whole strength of the orchestra comes in 
again, collected in a tremendous quintett grounded on the 
fundamental bass, — and he is dying ! Mahomet is world- 
weary ; he has exhausted everything. Now he craves to 
die a god. Arabia, in fact, worships and prays to him, 
and we return to the first melancholy strain (C minor) to 
which the curtain rose. 

'Now, do you not discern,' said Gambara, ceasing to 
play, and turning to the Count, ' in this picturesque and 
vivid music — abrupt, grotesque, or melancholy, but always 
grand — the complète expression of the life of an epileptic, 
mad for enjoyment, unable to read or write, using ail his 
defects as stepping-stones, turning every blunder and dis- 
aster into a triumph ? Did not you feel a sensé of his 

Gambara 217 

fascination exerted over a greedy and lustful race, in this 
overture, which is an epitome of the opéra ? ' 

At first calm and stern, the maestro's face, in which 
Andréa had been trying to read the ideas he was uttering 
in inspired tones, though the chaotic flood of notes afForded 
no due to them, had by degrees glowed with fire and 
assumed an impassioned force that infected Marianna and 
the cook. Marianna, too, deeply affected by certain pas- 
sages in which she recognised a picture of her own posi- 
tion, could not conceal the expression of her eyes from 

Gambara wiped his brow, and shot a glance at the ceil- 
ing of such fierce energy that he seemed to pierce it and 
soar to the very sicies. 

* You hâve seen the vestibule,' said he ; ' we will now 
enter the palace. The opéra begins : — 

' Act I. Mahomet, alone on the stage, begins with an 
air (F natural, common time), interrupted by a chorus of 
camel-drivers gathered round a well at the back of the 
stage (they sing in contrary time — twelve-eight). What 
majestic woe ! It will appeal to the most frivolous women, 
piercing to their inmost nerves if they hâve no heart. Is 
not this the very expression of crushed genius ? ' 

To Andrea's great astonishment, — for Marianna was 
accustomed to it, — Gambara contracted his larynx to such 
a pitch that the only sound was a stifled cry not unlike the 
bark of a watch-dog that has lost its voice. A slight foam 
came to the composer's lips and made Andréa shudder. 

' His wife appears (A minor). Such a magnificent duet ! 
In this number I hâve shown that Mahomet has the will 
and his wife the brains. Kadijah announces that she is 
about to dévote herself to an enterprise that will rob her 
of her young husband's love. Mahomet means to conquer 
the world ; this his wife has guessed, and she supports him 
by persuading the people of Mecca that her husband's 
attacks of epilepsy are the efFect of his intercourse with 

2 1 8 Gambara 

the angels (chorus of the first followers of Mahomet, 
who corne to promise him their aid, C sharp minor, sotto 
voce). Mahomet goes oiî" to seek the Angel Gabriel {reci- 
tative in F major). His wife encourages the disciples 
{aria^ interrupted by the chorus ; gusts of chanting support 
Kadijah's broad and majestic air, A major). 

* Abdallah, the father of Ayesha, — the only maiden 
Mahomet had found really innocent, wherefore he changed 
the name of Abdallah to Abubekir (the father of the 
virgin), — comes forward with Ayesha and sings against the 
chorus, in strains which rise above the other voices and 
supplément the air sung by Kadijah in contrapuntal treat- 
ment. Omar, the father of another maiden who is to be 
Mahomet's concubine, follows Abubekir's example; he and 
his daughter join in to form a quintett. The girl Ayesha 
is first soprano, Hafsa second soprano ; Abubekir is a bass, 
Omar a baritone. 

' Mahomet returns, inspired. He sings his first bravura 
air, the beginning of the finale (E major), promising the 
empire of the world to those who believe in him. The 
Prophet, seeing the two damsels, then, by a gentle transi- 
tion (from B major to G major), addresses them in amorous 
tones. Ali, Mahomet's cousin, and Khaled, his greatest 
gênerai, both ténors, now arrive and announce the persé- 
cution; the magistrates, the military, and the authorities 
hâve ail proscribed the Prophet {recitative'). Mahomet 
déclares in an invocation (in C) that the Angel Gabriel 
is on his side, and points to a pigeon that is seen flying 
away. The chorus of believers responds in accents of 
dévotion (on a modulation to B major). The soldiers, 
magistrates, and officiais then come on {tempo di marcia^ 
common time, B major). A chorus in two divisions 
(stretto in E major). Mahomet yields to the storm (in a 
descending phrase of diminished sevenths) and makes his 
escape. The fierce and gloomy tone of this finale is re-. 
lieved by the phrases given to the three women who fore- 

Gambara 219 

tell Mahomet's triumph, and thèse motives are further 
developed in the third act in the scène where Mahomet 
is enjoying his splendour.' 

The tears rose to Gambara's eyes, and it was only upon 
controllino; his émotion that he went on. 

'Act IL The religion is now established. The Arabs 
are guarding the Prophet's tent while he speaks with God 
(chorus in A minor). Mahomet appears (a prayer in F). 
What a majestic and noble strain is this that forms the 
bass of the voices, in which I hâve perhaps enlarged the 
borders of melody. It was needful to express the wonder- 
ful energy of this great human movement which created an 
architecture, a music, a poetry of its own, a costume and 
manners. As you listen, you are walking under the arcades 
of the Generalife, the carved vaults of the Alhambra. The 
runs and trills depict that délicate mauresque décoration, 
and the galiant and valorous religion which was destined 
to wage war against the galiant and valorous chivalry of 
Christendom. A few brass instruments awake in the 
orchestra, announcing the Prophet's first triumph (in a 
broken caden-za). The Arabs adore the Prophet (E flat 
major), and Khaled, Amru, and Ali arrive {tempo di marcià). 
The armies of the faithful hâve taken many towns and 
subjugated the three Arabias. Such a grand recitative ! — 
Mahomet rewards his gênerais by presenting them with 

' And hère,' said Gambara, sadly, ' there is one of those 
wretched ballets, which interrupt the thread of the finest 
musical tragédies ! But Mahomet élevâtes it once more 
by his great prophétie scène, which poor Monsieur Voltaire 
begins with thèse words : — 

" Arabia's time at last has corne ! " 

' He is interrupted by a chorus of triumphant Arabs 
(twelve-eight time, accelerando). The tribes arrive in 
crowds j the horns and brass reappear in the orchestra. 

220 Gambara 

General rejoicings ensue, ail the voices joining in by de- 
grees, and Mahomet announces polygamy. In the midst 
of ail this triumph, the woman who has been of such faith- 
ful service to Mahomet sings a magnificent air (in B major). 
"And I," says she, " am I no longer loved ? " " We must 
part. Thou art but a woman, and I am a Prophet ; I may 
still hâve slaves but no equal." Just listen to this duet 
(G sharp minor). What anguish ! The woman under- 
stands the greatness her hands hâve built up ; she loves 
Mahomet well enough to sacrifice herself to his glory ; 
she worships him as a god, without criticising him, — with- 
out murmuring. Poor woman ! His first dupe and his 
first victim ! 

' What a subject for the finale (in B major) is her grief, 
brought out in such sombre hues against the acclamations 
of the chorus, and mingling with Mahomet's tones as he 
throws his wife aside as a tool of no further use, still show- 
ing her that he can never forget her ! What fireworks of 
triumph ! what a rush of glad and rippling song go up from 
the two young voices (first and second soprano) of Ayesha 
and Hafsa, supported by Ali and his wife, by Omar and 
Abubekir! Weep! — rejoice! — Triumph and tears ! Such 
is life.' 

Marianna could not control her tears, and Andréa was 
so deeply moved that his eyes were moist. The Neapolitan 
cook was startled by the magnetic influence of the ideas 
expressed by Gambara's convulsive accents. 

The composer looked round, saw the group, and smiled. 

' At last you understand me ! ' said he. 

No conqueror, led in pomp to the Capitol under the 
purple beams of glory, as the crown was placed on his 
head amid the acclamations of a nation, ever wore such 
an expression. The composer's face was radiant, like that 
of a holy martyr. No one dispelled the error. A terrible 
smile parted Marianna's lips. The Count was appalled by 
the guilelessness of this mania. 

Gambara 221 

' Act III,' said the enchanted musician, reseating him- 
self at the piano. ' {^Andantim^ solo). Mahomet in his 
seraglio, surrounded by women, but not happy. Quartette 
of Houris (A major). What pompous harmony, what 
trills as of ecstatic nightingales ! Modulation (into F sharp 
minor). The thème is stated (on the dominant E and 
repeated in F major). Hère every delight is grouped and 
expressed to give effect to the contrast of the gloomy finale 
of the first act. After the dancing, Mahomet rises and 
sings a grand bravura air (in F minor), repelling the per- 
fect and devoted love of his first wife, but confessing him- 
self conquered by polygamy. Never has a musician had 
so fine a subject ! The orchestra and the chorus of female 
voices express the joys of the Houris, while Mahomet 
reverts to the melancholy strain of the opening. Where 
is Beethoven,' cried Gambara, ' to appreciate this pro- 
digious reaction of my opéra on itself ? How completely 
it ail rests on the bass. 

' It is thus that Beethoven composed his E minor sym- 
phony. But his heroic work is purely instrumental, 
whereas hère, my heroic phrase is worked out on a 
sextett of the finest human voices, and a chorus of the 
faithful on guard at the door of the sacred dwelling. I 
hâve every resource of melody and harmony at my com- 
mand, an orchestra and voices. Listen to the utterance 
of ail thèse phases of human life, rich and poor; — battle, 
triumph, and exhaustion ! 

' Ali arrives, the Koran prevails in every province (duet 
in D minor). Mahomet places himself in the hands of 
his two fathers-in-law ; he will abdicate his rule and die in 
retirement to consolidate his work. A magnificent sextett 
(B flat major). He takes leave of ail (solo in F natural). 
His two fathers-in-law, constituted his vicars or Khalifs, 
appeal to the people. A great triumphal march, and a 
prayer by ail the Arabs kneeling before the sacred house, 
the Kasbah, from which a pigeon is seen to fly away (the 

222 Gambara 

same key). This prayer, sung by sixty voices and led by 
the women (in B flat), crowns the stupendous work ex- 
pressive of the life of nations and of man. Hère you hâve 
every émotion, human and divine.' 

Andréa gazed at Gambara in blank amazement. 
Though at first he had been struck by the terrible irony 
of the situation, — this man expressing the feelings of 
Mahomet's wife without discovering them in Marianna, — 
the husband's hallucination was as nothing compared with 
the composer's. There was no hint even of a poetical or 
musical idea in the hideous cacophony with which he had 
deluged their ears ; the first principles of harmony, the 
most elementary rules of composition, were absolutely 
alien to this chaotic structure. Instead of the scientifi- 
cally compacted music which Gambara described, his fin- 
gers produced séquences of fifths, sevenths, and octaves, 
of major thirds, progressions of fourths with no supporting 
bass, — a medley of discordant sounds struck out hap- 
hazard in such a way as to be excruciating to the least 
sensitive ear. It is difficult to give any idea of the gro- 
tesque performance. New words would be needed to 
describe this impossible music. 

Andréa, painfully afFected by this worthy man's madness, 
coloured, and stole a glance at Marianna ; while she, turn- 
ing pale and looking down, could not restrain her tears. 
In the midst of this chaos of notes, Gambara had every 
now and then given vent to his rapture in exclama- 
tions of delight. He had closed his eyes in ecstasy; had 
smiled at his piano ; had looked at it with a frown ; put 
out his tongue at it after the fashion of the inspired per- 
former, — in short, was quite intoxicated with the poetry 
that filled his brain, and that he had vainly striven to 
utter. The strange discords that clashed under his An- 
gers had obviously sounded in his ears like celestial har- 

Gambara 223 

A deaf man, seeing the inspired gaze of his blue eyes 
open on another world, the rosy glow that tinged his 
cheeks, and, above ail, the heavenly serenity which ecstasy 
stamped on his proud and noble countenance, would hâve 
supposed that he was looking on at the improvisation of a 
really 2;reat artist. The illusion would hâve been ail the 
more natural because the performance of this mad music 
required immense executive skill to achieve such fingering. 
Gambara must hâve w^orked at it for years. 

Nor were his hands alone employed ; his feet were con- 
stantlv at work with complicated pedalling; his body swayed 
to and fro ; the perspiration poured down his face while 
he toiled to produce a great crescendo with the feeble 
means the thankless instrument placed at his command. 
He stamped, puffed, shouted; his fingers were as swift as 
the serpent's double tongue ; and finally, at the last crash 
on the kevs, he fell back in his chair, resting his head on 
the top of it. 

*■ Per Bacco ! I am quite stunned,' said the Count as he 
left the house. ' A child dancing on the keyboard would 
make better music' 

' Certainly mère chance could not more successfully 
avoid hitting two notes in concord than that possessed 
créature has donc during the past hour,' said Giardini. 

' How is it that the regular beauty of Marianna's features 
is not spoiled by incessantly hearing such a hideous medley ? * 
said the Count to himself. ' Marianna will certainly grow 

' Signor, she must be saved from that,' cried Giardini. 

'Yes,' said Andréa. 'I hâve thought of that. Still, to 
be sure that my plans are not based on error, I must con- 
firm my doubts by another experiment. I will return and 
examine the instruments he has invented. To-morrow, 
after dinner, we will hâve a little supper. I will send in 
some wine and little dishes.' 

The cook bowed. 

224 Gambara 

Andréa spent the following day in superintending the 
arrangement of the rooms where he meant to install the 
artist in a humble home. 

In the evening the Count made his appearance, and 
found the wine, according to his instructions, set out with 
some care by Marianna and Giardini. Gambara proudly 
exhibited the little drums, on which lay the powder by 
means of which he made his observations on the pitch and 
quality of the sounds emitted by his instruments. 

'You see,' said he, 'by what simple means I can prove the 
most important propositions. Acoustics thus can show me 
the analogous effects of Sound on every object of its impact. 
Ail harmonies start from a common centre and préserve the 
closest relations among themselves ; or rather, harmony, like 
light, is decomposable by our art as a ray is by a prism.' 

He then displayed the instruments constructed in accord- 
ance with his laws, explaining the changes he had intro- 
duced into their constitution. And finally he announced 
that to conclude this preliminary inspection, which could 
only satisfy a superficial curiosity, he would perform on an 
instrument that contained ail the éléments of a complète 
orchestra, and which he called a Panharmonicon. 

'If it is the machine in that huge case, which brings 
down on us the complaints of the neighbourhood whenever 
you work at it, you will not play on it long,' said Giardini. 
' The police will interfère. Remember that ! ' 

' If that poor idiot stays in the room,' said Gambara in 
a whisper to the Count, ' I cannot possibly play.' 

Andréa dismissed the cook, promising a handsome reward 
if he would keep watch outside and hinder the neighbours or 
the police from interfering. Giardini, who had not stinted 
himself while helping Gambara to wine, was quite willing. 

Gambara, without being drunk, was in the condition 
when every power of the brain is over-wrought ; when the 
walls of the room are transparent ; when the garret has no 
roof, and the soûl soars in the empyrean of spirits. 

Gambara 225 

Marianna, with some little difficulty, removed the covers 
from an instrument as large as a grand piano, but with 
an upper case added. This strange-looking instrument, 
besides this second body and its keyboard, supported the 
openings or bells of various wind instruments and the closed 
funnels of a few organ pipes. 

' Will you play me the prayer you say is so fine at the 
end of your opéra ? ' said the Count. 

To the great surprise of both Marianna and the Count, 
Gambara began with a succession of chords that proclaimed 
him a master; and their astonishment gave way first to 
amazed admiration and then to perfect rapture, effacing ail 
thought of the place and the performer. The effects of a 
real orchestra could not hâve been finer than the voices of 
the wind instruments, which were like those of an organ 
and combined wonderfully with the harmonies of the 
strino;s. But the unfinished condition of the machine set 
limits to the composer's exécution, and bis idea seemed ail 
the greater ; for, often, the very perfection of a work of art 
limits its suggestiveness to the récipient soûl. Is not this 
proved by the préférence accorded to a sketch rather than 
a finished picture when on their trial before those who 
interpret a work in their own mind rather than accept it 
rounded ofFand complète? 

The purest and serenest music that Andréa had ever 
listened to rose up from under Gambara's fingers like the 
vapour of incense from an altar. The composer's voice 
grew young again, and, far from marring the noble melody, 
it elucidated it, supported it, guided it, — just as the feeble 
and quavering voice of an accomplished reader, such as 
Andrieux, for instance, can expand the meaning of some 
great scène by Corneille or Racine by lending personal and 
poetical feeling. 

This really angelic strain showed what treasures lay 
hidden in that stupendous opéra, which, however, would 
never find compréhension so long as the musician persisted 

226 Gambara 

in trying to explain it in his présent demented state. His 
wife and the Count were equally divided between the 
music and their surprise at this hundred-voiced instrument, 
inside which a stranger might hâve fancied an invisible 
chorus of girls were hidden, so closely did some of the 
tones resemble the human voice ; and they dared not 
express their ideas by a look or a word. Marianna's face 
was lighted up by a radiant beam. of hope which revived 
the glories of her youth. This renascence of beauty, co- 
existent with the luminous glow of her husband's genius, 
cast a shade of regret on the Count's exquisite pleasure in 
this mysterious hour. 

' You are our good genius ! ' vvhispered Marianna. ' I 
am tempted to believe that you actually inspire him ; for 
î, who never am away from him, hâve never heard any- 
thing like this.' 

' And Kadijah's farewell ! ' cried Gambara, who sang the 
cavatïna which he had described the day before as sublime, 
and which now brought tears to the eyes of the lovers, so 
perfectly did it express the loftiest dévotion of love. 

' Who can hâve taught yon such strains ? ' cried the 

' The Spirit,' said Gambara. ' When he appears, ail is 
fire. I see the mélodies there before me \ lovely, fresh in 
vivid hues like flowers. They beam on me, they ring out, — 
and I listen. But it takes a long, long time to reproduce 

' Some more ! ' said Marianna. 

Gambara, who could not tire, played on without effort 
or antics. He performed his overture with such skill, 
bringing out such rich and original musical effects, that 
the Count was quite dazzled, and at last believed in some 
magie like that commanded by Paganini and Liszt, — a 
style of exécution which changes every aspect of music 
as an art, by giving it a poetic quality far above musical 

Gambara 227 

' Well, Excellenza, and can you cure him ? ' asked 
Giardini, as Andréa came out. 

' I shall soon find out,' replied the Count. ' This man's 
intellect has two windows ; one is closed to the world, 
the other is open to the hcavens. The first is music, the 
second is poetry. Till now he has insisted on sitting in 
front of the shuttered window ; he must be got to the 
other. It was you, Giardini, who first started me in the 
right track, by telling me that your client's mind was 
clearer after drinking a few glasses of wine.' 

' Yes,' cried the cook, ' and I can see what your plan is.' 

' If it is not too late to make the thunder of poetry audi- 
ble to his ears, in the midst of the harmonies of some noble 
music, we must put him into a condition to receive it and 
appreciate it. Will you help me to intoxicate Gambara, 
my good fellow ? Will you be none the worse for it ? ' 

' What do you mean, Excellenza ? ' 

Andréa went off without answering him, laughing at the 
acumen still left to this cracked wit. 

On the following day he called for Marianna, who had 
spent the morning in arranging her dress, — a simple but 
décent outfit, on which she had spent ail her little savings. 
The transformation would hâve destroyed the illusions of 
a mère dangler; but Andrea's caprice had become a pas- 
sion. Marianna, diverted of her picturesque poverty, and 
looking like any ordinary woman of modest rank, inspired 
dreams of wedded life. 

He handed her into a hackney coach, and told her of the 
plans he had in his head ; and she approved of everything, 
happy in finding her admirer more lofty, more generous, 
more disinterested than she had dared to hope. He took 
her to a little apartment, where he had allowed himself to 
remind her of his good offices by some of the élégant trifles 
which hâve a charm for the most virtuous women. 

'I will never speak to you of love till you give up ail 
hope of your Paolo,' said the Count to Marianna, as he bid 

228 Gambara 

her good-bye at the Rue Froid-Manteau. ' You will be 
witness to the sincerity of my attempts. If they succeed, 
I may find myself unequal to keeping up my part as a 
friend ; but in that case I shall go far away, Marianna. 
Though I hâve firmness enough to work for your happi- 
ness, I shall not hâve so much as will enable me to look 
on at it.' 

*■ Do not say such things. Generosity, too, has its 
dangers,' said she, swallowing down her tears. 'But are 
you going now ? ' 

'Yes,' said Andréa; 'be happy, without any drawbacks.' 

If Giardini might be believed, the new treatment was 
bénéficiai to both husband and wife. Every evening after 
his wine, Gambara seemed less self-centred, talked more, 
and with great lucidity ; he even spoke at last of reading 
the papers. Andréa could not help quaking at his unex- 
pectedly rapid success ; but though his distress made him 
aware of the strength of his passion, it did not make him 
waver in his virtuous résolve, 

One day he called to note the progress of this singular 
cure. Though the state of the patient at first gave him 
satisfaction, his joy was dashed by Marianna's beauty, for 
an easy life had restored its brilliancy. He called now 
every evening to enjoy calm and serions conversation, to 
which he contributed lucid and well considered arguments 
controverting Gambara's singular théories. He took ad- 
vantage of the remarkable acumen of the composer's 
mind as to every point not too directly bearing on his 
manias, to obtain his assent to principles in various 
branches of art, and apply them subsequently to music. 
Ail was well so long as the patient's brain was heated 
with the fumes of wine; but as soon as he had recovered 
— or, rather, lost — his reason, he was a monomaniac once 

However, Paolo was already more easily diverted by the 

Gambara 229 

impression of outside things ; his mind was more capable 
of addressing itself to several points at a time. 

Andréa, who took an artistic interest in his semi-medical 
treatment, thought at last that the time had corne for a 
great experiment. He would give a dinner at his own 
house, to which he would invite Giardini for the sake 
of keeping the tragedy and the parody side by side, and 
afterwards take the party to the first performance of Robert 
le Diable. He had seen it in rehearsal, and he judged it 
well fitted to open his patient's eyes. 

By the end of the second course, Gambara was already 
tipsy, laughing at himself with a very good grâce j while 
Giardini confessed that his own culinary innovations were 
not worth a rush. Andréa had neglected nothing that 
could contribute to this twofold miracle. The wines of 
Orvieto and of Montefiascone, conveyed with the peculiar 
care needed in moving them, Lachrymachristi and Giro, — 
ail the heady liqueurs of la cara Patria.^ — went to their 
brains with the intoxication alike of the grape and of fond 
memory. At dessert the musician and the cook both 
abjured every heresy ; one was humming a cavatina by 
Rossini, and the other piling delicacies on his plate and 
washing them down with Maraschino from Zara, to the 
prosperity of the French cuisine. 

The Count took advantage of this happy frame of mind, 
and Gambara allowed himself to be taken to the opéra like 
a lamb. 

At the first introductory notes Gambara's intoxication 
appeared to clear away and make way for the feverish 
excitement which sometimes brought his judgment and his 
imagination into perfect harmony ; for it was their habituai 
disagreement, no doubt, that caused his madness. The 
ruling idea of that great musical drama appeared to him, 
no doubt, in its noble simplicity, like a lightning flash, 
illuminating the utter darkness in which he lived. To his 
unsealed eyes this music revealed the immense horizons 

230 Gambara 

of a world in which he found himself for the first time, 
though recognising it as that he had seen in his dreams. 
He fancied himself transported into the scenery of his 
native land, where that beautiful Italian landscape begins 
at what Napoléon so cleverly described as the glacis of the 
Alps. Carried back by memory to the time when his 
young and eager brain was as yet untroubled by the ecstasy 
of his too exubérant imagination, he listened with religious 
awe and would not utter a single word. The Count re- 
spected the internai travail of his soûl. Till half-past 
tw^elve Gambara sat so perfectly motionless that the fre- 
quenters of the opéra house took him, no doubt, for what 
he vi'as — a man drunk. 

On their return, Andréa began to attack Meyerbeer's 
work, in order to wake up Gambara, who sat sunk in the 
half-torpid state common in drunkards. 

*- What is there in that incohérent score to reduce you 
to a condition of somnambulism ? ' asked Andréa, when 
they got out at his house. 'The story of Robert le Diable^ 
to be sure, is not devoid of interest, and Holtei has worked 
it out with great skill in a drama that is very well written 
and full of strong and pathetic situations ; but the French 
librettist has contrived to extract from it the most ridicu- 
lous farrago of nonsense. The absurdities of the libretti 
of Vesari and Schikander are not to compare with those 
of the words of Robert le Diable; it is a dramatic night- 
mare, which oppresses the hearer without deeply moving 

' And Meyerbeer has given the devil a too prominent 
part. Bertram and Alice represent the contest between 
right and wrong, the spirits of good and evil. This an- 
tagonism offered a splendid opportunity to the composer. 
The sweetest mélodies, in juxtaposition with harsh and 
crude strains, was the natural outcome of the form of the 
story ; but in the German composer's score the démons 
sing better than the saints. The heavenly airs belle their 

Gambara 23 1 

origin, and when the composer abandons the infernal 
motives he returns to them as soon as possible, fatigued 
with the effort of keeping aloof from them. Melody, the 
golden thread that ought never to be lost throughout so 
vast a plan, often vanishes from Meyerbeer's work. Feel- 
ing counts for nothing, the heart has no part in it. Hence 
we never come upon those happy inventions, those artless 
scènes, which captivate ail our sympathies and leave a bliss- 
ful impression on the soûl. 

' Harmony reigns suprême, instead of being the founda- 
tion from which the mélodie groups of the musical picture 
stand forth. Thèse discordant combinations, far from 
moving the listener, arouse in him a feeling analogous to 
that which he would expérience on seeing a rope-dancer 
hanging to a thread and swaying between life and death. 
Never does a soothing strain come in to mitigate the 
fatiguing suspense. It really is as though the composer 
had had no other object in view than to produce a baroque 
effect without troubling himself about musical truth or 
unity, or about the capabilities of human voices which are 
swamped by this flood of instrumental noise.' 

'Silence, my friend!' cried Gambara. 'I am still under 
the spell of that glorious chorus of hell, made still more 
terrible by the long trumpets, — a new method of instru- 
mentation. The broken cadenzas which give such force to 
Robert's scène, the cavatina in the fourth act, the finale of 
the first, ail hold me in the grip of a supernatural power. 
No, not even Gluck's déclamation ever produced so pro- 
digious an effect, and I am amazed by such skill and 

' Signor Maestro,' said Andréa, smiling, ' allow me to 
contradict you. Gluck, before he wrote, reflected long ; 
he calculated the chances, and he decided on a plan which 
might be subsequently modified by bis inspirations as to 
détail, but hindered him from ever losing bis way. Hence 
his power of emphasis, bis declamatory style thrilling with 

232 Gambara 

life and truth. I quite agrée with you that Meyerbeer's 
learning is transcendent ; but science is a defect when it 
evicts inspiration, and it seems to me that we hâve in this 
opéra the painful toil of a refined craftsman who in his 
music has but picked up thousands of phrases out of other 
opéras, damned or forgotten, and appropriated them, while 
extending, modifying, or condensing them. But he has 
fallen into the error of ail selectors of centos^ — an abuse 
of good things. This clever harvester of notes is lavish 
of discords, which, when too often introduced, fatigue the 
ear till those great effects pall upon it which a composer 
should husoand with care to make the more effective use 
of them when the situation requires it. Thèse enharmonie 
passages recur to satiety, and the abuse of the plagal cadence 
deprives it of its religious solemnity. 

* I know, of course, that every musician has certain 
forms to which he drifts back in spite of himself; he 
should watch himself so as to avoid that blunder. A 
picture in which there were no colours but blue and red 
would be untrue to nature, and fatigue the eye. And 
thus the constantly recurring rhythm in the score of Robert 
le Diable makes the work, as a whole, appear monotonous. 
As to the efFect of the long trumpets, of which you speak, 
it has long been known in Germany ; and what Meyer- 
beer ofFers us as a novelty was constantly used by Mozart, 
who gives just such a chorus to the devils in Don 

By plying Gambara, meanwhile, with fresh libations, 
Andréa thus strove, by his contradictoriness, to bring the 
musician back to a true sensé of music, by proving to him 
that his so-called mission was not to try to regenerate an 
art beyond his powers, but to seek to express himself in 
another form ; namely, that of poetry. 

*■ But, my dear Count, you hâve understood nothing of 
that stupendous musical drama,' said Gambara, airily, as 
standing in front of Andrea's piano he struck the keys. 

Gambara 233 

listened to the tone, and then seated himself, meditating 
for a fcw minutes as if to collect his ideas. 

* To begin vvith, you must know,' said he, ' that an ear 
as practised as mine at once detected that labour of choice 
and setting of vvhich you spoke. Yes, the music bas been 
selected, lovingly, from the storehouse of a rich and fertile 
imagination wherein learning bas squeezed every idea to 
extract the very essence of music. I will illustrate the 

He rose to carry the candies into the adjoining room, 
and before sitting down again he drank a full glass of Giro, 
a Sardinian wine, as full of fire as the old wines of Tokay 
can inspire. 

^Now, you see/ said Gambara, *this music is not written 
for misbelievers, nor for those who know not love. If you 
hâve never suffered from the virulent attacks of an evil 
spirit who shifts your object just as you are taking aim, 
who puts a fatal end to your highest hopes, — in one word, 
if you bave never felt the devil's tail whisking over the 
world, the opéra of Robert le Diable must be to you, what 
the Apocalypse is to those who believe that ail things will 
end with them. But if, persecuted and wretched, you 
understand that Spirit of Evil, — the monstrous ape who is 
perpetually employed in destroying the work of God, — if 
you can conceive of him as having, not indeed loved, but 
ravished, an almost divine woman, and achieved through 
her the joy of paternity ; as so loving his son that he would 
rather bave him eternally misérable with himself than think 
of him as eternally happy with God ; if, finally, you can 
imagine the mother's soûl for ever hovering over the child's 
head to snatch it from the atrocious temptations ofFered by 
its father, — even then you will bave but a faint idea of 
this stupendous drama, which needs but little to make it 
worthy of comparison with Mozart's Don Giovanni. Don 
Giovanni is in its perfection the greater, I grant j Robert le 
Diable expresses ideas, Don Giovanni arouses sensations. 

234 Gambara 

Don Giovanni is as yet the only musical work in which 
harmony and melody are combined in exactly the right 
proportions. In this lies its only superiority, for Robert 
is the richer work. But how vain are such comparisons 
since each is so beautiful in its own way ! 

' To me, sufFering as I do from the demon's repeated 
shocks, Robert spoke with greater power than to you ; it 
struck me as being at the same time vast and concentrated. 

' Thanks to you, I hâve been transported to the glorious 
land of dreams where our sensés expand, and the vi^orld 
Works on a scale which is gigantic as compared with man.' 

He was silent for a space. 

' I am trembling still,' said the ill-starred artist, ' from 
the four bars of cymbals which pierced to my marrow as 
they open that short, abrupt introduction with its solo for 
trombone, its flûtes, oboes, and clarionet, ail suggesting the 
most fantastic efFects of colour. The andante in C minor 
is a foretaste of the subject of the évocation of the ghosts 
in the abbey, and gives grandeur to the scène by antici- 
pating the spiritual struggle. I shivered.' 

Gambara pressed the keys with a firm hand and ex- 
panded Meyerbeer's thème in a masterly fantasia^ a sort 
of outpouring of his soûl after the manner of Liszt. It 
was no longer the piano, it was a whole orchestra that they 
heard ; the very genius of music rose before them. 

' That is worthy of Mozart ! ' he exclaimed. *■ See 
how that German can handle his chords, and through 
what masterly modulations he raises the image of 
terror to come to the dominant C. I can hear ail hell 
in it ! 

' The curtain rises. What do I see ? The only scène 
to which we gave the epithet infernal : an orgy of knights 
in Sicily. In that chorus in F every human passion is 
unchained in a bacchanalian allegro. Every thread by 
which the devil holds us is pulled. Yes, that is the sort 
of glee that comes over men when they dance on the edge 

Gambara 235 

of a précipice ; they make themselves giddy. What go 
there is in that chorus ! 

' Against that chorus — the reality of life — the simple 
life of ever)--day virtue stands out in the air, in G minor, 
sung by Raimbaut. For a moment it refreshed my spirit 
to hear the simple fellow, représentative of verdurous and 
fruitful Normandy, which he brings to Robert's mind in 
the midst of his drunkenness. The sweet influence of his 
beloved native land lends a touch of tender colour to this 
gloomy opening. 

' Then comes the wonderful air in C major, supported 
by the chorus in C minor, so expressive of the subject. 
"y<? suis Robert!" he immediately breaks out. The wrath 
of the prince, insulted by his vassal, is already more than 
natural anger ; but it will die away, for memories of his 
childhood come to him, with Alice, in the bright and 
graceful allegro in A major. 

' Can you not hear the cries of the innocent dragged 
into this infernal drama, — a persecuted créature? " A^o«, 
non" sang Gambara, who made the consumptive piano 
sing. His native land and tender émotions hâve come 
back to him ; his childhood and its memories hâve blos- 
somed anew in Robert's heart. And now his mother's 
shade rises up, bringing with it soothing religious thoughts. 
It is religion that lives in that beautiful song in E major, 
with its wonderful harmonie and mélodie progression in 
the words : — 

** Car dans les deux, comme sur la terre. 
Sa mère va prier pour lui." 

' Hère the struggle begins between the unseen powers 
and the only human being who bas the fire of hell in 
his veins to enable him to resist them; and to make this 
quite clear, as Bertram comes on, the great musician has 
given the orchestra a passage introducing a réminiscence 

2^6 Gambara 

of Raimbaut's ballad. What a stroke of art ! What 
cohésion of ail the parts ! What solidity of structure ! 

' The devil is there, in hiding, but restless. The con- 
flict of the antagonistic powers opens with Alice's terror; 
she recognizes the devil of the image of Saint Michael 
in her village. The musical subject is worked out through 
an endless variety of phases. The antithesis indispensable 
in opéra is emphatically presented in a noble recitative^ such 
as a Gluck might hâve composed, betvi^een Bertram and 
Robert : — 

**Tu ne sauras jamais à quel excès je t'aime." 

In that diabolical C minor, Bertram, with his terrible bass, 
begins his work of undermining which will overthrow 
every effort of the véhément, passionate man. 

' Hère, everything is appalling, Will the crime get pos- 
session of the criminal ? Will the executioner seize his 
victim ? Will sorrow consume the artist's genius ? Will 
the disease kill the patient ? or, vv^ill the guardian angel save 
the Christian .? 

' Then comes the finale^ the gambling scène in which 
Bertram tortures his son by rousing him to tremendous 
émotions. Robert, beggared, frenzied, searching every- 
thing, eager for blood, fire, and sword, is his own son ; in 
this mood he is exactly like his father. What hideous 
glee we hear in Bertram's words : '•''Je ris de tes coups ! " 
And how perfectly the Venetian barcarole comes in hère. 
Through what wondrous transitions the diabolical parent is 
brought on to the stage once more to make Robert throw 
the dice. 

*• This first act is overwhelming to any one capable of 
working out the subjects in his very heart, and lending 
them the breadth of development which the composer in- 
tended them to call forth. 

' Nothing but love could now be contrasted with this 

Gambara 237 

noble symphony of song, in which you will detect no 
monotony, no répétition of mcans and effects. It is one, 
but many ; the characteristic of ail that is truly great and 

' I breathe more freely ; I find myself in the élégant cir- 
cle of a gallant court ; I hear Isabella's charming phrases, 
frcsh, but almost melancholy, and the female chorus in two 
divisions, and in imitation^ with a suggestion of the Moorish 
colouring of Spain. Hère the terrifying music is softened 
to gentler hues, like a storm dying away, and ends in the 
florid prettiness of a duet wholly unlike anything that has 
corne before it. After the turmoil of a camp full of errant 
heroes, we hâve a picture of love. Poet ! I thank thee ! 
My heart could not hâve borne much more. If I could 
not hère and there pluck the daisies of a French light opéra, 
if I could not hear the gentle wit of a woman able to love 
and to charm, I could not endure the terrible deep note on 
which Bertram comes in, saying to his son : " Si je le per- 
mets ! " when Robert has promised the princess he adores 
that he will conquer with the arms she has bestowed on 

' The hopes of the gambler cured by love, the love of a 
most beautiful woman, — did you observe that magnificent 
Sicilian, with her hawk's eye secure of her prey ? (What 
interpreters that composer has found !) the hopes of the 
man are mocked at by the hopes of hell in the tremendous 
cry : "y/ toi^ Robert de Normandie ! " 

' And are not you struck by thegloom and horror of those 
long-held notes, to which the words are set: '"'•Dans la forêt 
■prochaine" ? We find hère ail the sinister spells of 'Jérusa- 
lem Delivered^ just as we find ail chivalry in the chorus with 
the Spanish lilt, and in the march tune. How original is 
the allegro with the modulations of the four cymbals (tuned 
to C, D, C, G) ! How élégant is the call to the lists ! The 
whole movement of the heroic life of the period is there; 
the mind enters into it; I read in it a romance, a poem of 

238 Gambara 

chivalry. The exposition is now finished ; the resources of 
music would seem to be exhausted ; you hâve never heard 
anything like it before; and yet it is homogeneous. You 
hâve had life set before you, and its one and only crux: 
" Shall I be happy or unhappy ? " is the philosopher's qucry. 
" Shall I be saved or damned ? " aslcs the Christian.' 

With thèse words Gambara struck the last chord of the 
chorus, dwelt on it with a melancholy modulation, and then 
rose to drink another large glass of Giro. This half-African 
vintage gave his face a dceper flush, for his passionate and 
wonderful sketch of Meyerbeer's opéra had made him turn 
a little pale. 

* That nothing may be lacking to this composition,' he 
went on, ' the great artist has generously added the only 
huffb duct pcrmissible for a devil : that in vi^hich he tempts 
the unhappy troubadour. The composer has set jocosity side 
by side with horror — a jocosity in which he mocks at the 
only realism he had allowed himself amid the sublime imag- 
inings of his work — the pure calm love of Alice and 
Raimbaut ; and thcir life is overshadowed by the forecast 
of evil. 

' None but a lofty soûl can feel the noble style of thèse 
huffo airs ; they hâve neither the superabundant frivolity of 
Italian music nor the vulgar accent of Frcnch common- 
placc ; rather havc they the majcsty of Olympus. Thcre 
is the bittcr laughtcr of a divine being mocking the surprise 
of a troubadour Don-Juanising himself. But for this dig- 
nity we should be too suddcnly brought down to the gênerai 
tone of the opéra, hère stanipcd on that terrible fury of 
diminished sevenths which résolves itself into an infernal 
walt/,, and finally brings us face to face with the démons. 

*■ How cmphatically Bertram's couplet stands out in lî 
minor against that diabolical chorus, dcpicting his patcriiity, 
but mingling in fcarful despair with thèse demoniacal strains. 

'Then comes the delightful transition of Alice's reap- 
pearance, with the ritoruel in R flat. I can still hear that 

Gambara 2J9 

air o( angclical simplicitv — thc nightiiigalc aftcr a stonu. 
Thus tho grand Icading Idca "ot" thc whole is worked eut in 
thc dctails ; t'or what could bc more pcrtcctlv in contrast 
with thc tumult of dcvils tossing in thc pit than that wondcr- 
hil air givcn to Alice ? '' X^UiinJ fui quitté /<; AWftuinJif."' 

*■ Thc golden thread of niclodv flows on, side by sidc with 
thc mightv harnionv, likc a hcavenlv hope ; it is embroid- 
cred on it, and with what marvcUous skill ! Cicnius ncver 
leavcs go of the science that guides it. Hère Alice's song 
is in B flat Icading into F sharp, thc kev of thc demon's 
chorus. Do vou hcar the trémolo in the orchestra ? The 
host of de\ ils chimour for Robert. 

' Hcrtram now reappears, and this is thc culminating 
point of musical intcrest ; after a recitative^ worthy of com- 
parison with the fincst work of thc great masters, cornes 
thc hcrce conflict in K flat bctwecn two trcmcndous forces 
— onc on thc words "0//;, tu nu connais ! " on a diminished 
seventh ; thc other, on that sublime F '' Le cirl est (ivcc 
moi.'" Hell and thc Crucifix hâve met for battlc. Next 
we hâve Hcrtram thrcatening Alice, thc most \ iolcnt pathos 
ever heard — thc Spirit of Kvil expatiating complaccntly, 
and, as usual, appcaling to personal intcrest. Robert's 
arrivai gives us the magnificcnt unaccompanied trio in A 
flat, the first skirmish bctwecn the two rival forces and 
thc man. And note how clcarly that is cxpresscd,' said 
Cîambara, epitomising the scène with such passion of ex- 
pression as startlcd Andréa. 

*■ AU this avalanche of music, fxoxw thc clash of cymbals 
in conmuMi timc, bas bccn gathcring up to this contcst of 
thrcc voices. Thc magie of cvil triumpbs ' Alice flics, 
and you hâve the duet in I) bctwecn .nul Robert. 
The devil sets his talons in thc m.m's hcart ; hc tc.irs it to 
make it his own ; hc wiuks o\\ every fceling. llonour, 
hope, eternal and infinité plcasurcs — hc displays them ail. 
Hc places him, as hc did jcsus, on the pinnaclc of the 
IVmple, and shows him ail the treasures of thc carth, the 

240 Gambara 

storehouse of sin. He nettles him to flaunt his courage, 
and the man's nobler mind is expressed in his exclamation : 

** Des chevaliers de ma patrie 
L'honneur toujours fut le soutien ! " 

* And finally, to crown the work, the thème cornes in 
which sounded the note of fatality at the beginning. Thus, 
the leading strain, the magnificent call to the dead : — 

** Nonnes qui reposez sous cette froide pierre. 
M'entendez-vous ? " 

'The career of the music, gloriously worked out, is 
gloriously finished by the allegro vïvace of the bacchanalian 
chorus in D minor. This, indeed, is the triumph of 
hell ! RoU on, harmony, and wrap us in a thousand 
folds ! RoU on, bewitch us ! The powers of darkness 
hâve clutched their prey ; they hold him while they dance. 
The great genius, born to conquer and to reign, is lost ! 
The devils rejoice, misery stifles genius, passion will wreck 
the knight ! ' 

And hère Gambara improvised a fantasia of his own on 
the bacchanalian chorus, with ingenious variations, and hum- 
ming the air in a melancholy drone as if to express the 
secret sufferings he had knou^n. 

' Do you hear the heavenly lamentations of neglected 
love ? ' he said. ' Isabella calls to Robert above the grand 
chorus of knights riding forth to the tournament, in which 
the motifs of the second act reappear to make it clear that 
the third act has ail taken place in a supernatural sphère. 
This is real life again. This chorus dies away at the 
approach of the hellish enchantment brought by Robert 
vv^ith the talisman. The deviltry of the third act is to be 
carried on. Hère we hâve the duet with the viol ; the 
rhythm is highly expressive of the brutal desires of a man 
who is omnipotent, and the Princess, by plaintive phrases. 

Gambara 241 

tries to win her lover back to modération. The musician 
has hère placed himself in a situation of great difficulty, and 
has surmounted it in the loveliest number of the whole 
opéra. How charming is the melody of the cavatina *' Grâce 
pour toi ! " Ail the women présent understood it well ; each 
saw herself seized and snatched away on the stage. That 
part alone would suffice to make the fortune of the opéra. 
Every woman felt herself engaged in a struggle with some 
violent lover, Never was music so passionate and so 

'The whole world now rises in arms against the repro- 
bate. This Jinale may be criticised for its resemblance to 
that of Don Giovanni ; but there is this immense différence : 
in Isabella we hâve the expression of the noblest faith, a 
true love that will save Robert, for he scornfully rejects 
the infernal powers bestowed on him, while Don Giovanni 
persists in his unbelief. Moreover, that particular fault is 
common to every composer who has written a finale since 
Mozart. ^\\t finale to Don Giovanni is one of those classic 
forms that are invented once for ail. 

' At last religion wins the day, uplifting the voice that 
governs worlds, that invites ail sorrow to corne for conso- 
lation, ail repentance to be forgiven and helped. 

' The whole house was stirred by the chorus : — 

** Malheureux ou coupables. 
Hâtez- vous d'accourir ! " 

' In the terrifie tumult of raving passions, the holy Voice 
would hâve been unheard ; but at this critical moment it 
sounds like thunder ; the divine Catholic Church rises glo- 
rious in light. And hère I was amazed to find that after 
such lavish use of harmonie treasure, the composer had 
corne upon a new vein with the splendid chorus : " Gloire à 
la Providence " in the manner of Hândel. 

' Robert rushes on with his heart-rending cry : " Si je 
pouvais prier! " and Bertram, driven by the infernal decree, 


242 Gambara 

pursues his son, and makes a last effort. Alice has called 
up the vision of the Mother, and now cornes the grand trio 
to which the whole opéra has led up : the triumph of the 
soûl over matter, of the Spirit of Good over the Spirit of 
Evil. The strains of piety prevail over the chorus of hell, 
and happiness appears glorious ; but hère the music is 
w^eaker. I only saw a cathedral instead of hearing a con- 
cert of angels in bliss, and a divine prayer consecrating the 
union of Robert and Isabella. We ought not to hâve been 
left oppressed by the spells of hell ; we ought to émerge 
with hope in our heart, 

' I, as musician and a Catholic, wanted another prayer 
like that in Mosé. I should hâve liked to see how Ger- 
many w^ould contend with Italy, what Meyerbeer could do 
in rivalry with Rossini. 

' However, in spite of this trifling blemish, the writer 
cannot say that after five hours of such solid music, a 
Parisian prefers a bit of ribbon to a musical masterpiece. 
You heard how the work was applauded ; it will go through 
five hundred performances ! If the French really under- 
stand that music ' 

' It is because it expresses ideas,' the Count put in. 

' No ; it is because it sets forth in a definite shape a 
picture of the struggle in which so many perish, and be- 
cause every individual life is implicated in it through mem- 
ory. Ah ! I, hapless wretch, should hâve been too happy 
to hear the sound of those heavenly voices I hâve so often 
dreamed of.' 

Hereupon Gambara fell into a musical day-dream, im- 
provising the most lovely melodious and harmonious cava- 
tina that Andréa would ever hear on earth ; a divine strain 
divinely performed on a thème as exquisite as that of O fi lit 
et filiœ^ but graced with additions such as none but the 
loftiest musical genius could devise. 

The Count sat lost in keen admiration ; the clouds 
cleared away, the blue sky opened, figures of angels ap- 

Gambara 243 

peared lifting the veil that hid the sanctuary, and the light 
of heaven poured down. 

There was a sudden silence. 

The Count, surprised at the cessation of the music, 
looked at Gambara, who, with fixed gaze, in the attitude 
of a visionary, murmured the word : *■ God ! ' 

Andréa waited till the composer had desccnded from the 
enchanted realm to which he had soared on the many-hued 
wings of inspiration, intending to show him the truth by 
the light he himself would bring down with him. 

' Well,' said he, pouring him out another bumper of 
wine and clinking glasses with him, * this German has, 
you see, written a sublime opéra without troubling him- 
self with théories, while those musicians who write gram- 
mars of harmony may, like literary critics, be atrocious 

' Then you do not like my music ? ' 

' I do not say so. But if, instead of carrying musical 
principles to an extrême — which takes you too far — you 
would simply try to arouse our feelings, you would be better 
understood, unless indeed you hâve mistaken your vocation. 
You are a great poet.' 

' What,' cried Gambara, ' are twenty-five years of study 
ail in vain ? Am I to learn the imperfect language of men 
when I hâve the key to the heavenly tongue ? Oh, if you 
are right, — I should die.' 

' No, no. You are great and strong ; you would begin 
life again, and I would support you. We would show the 
world the noble and rare alliance of a rich man and an art- 
ist in perfect sympathy and understanding.' 

' Do you mean it ? ' asked Gambara, struck with amaze- 

' As I hâve told you, you are a poet more than a musician.' 

'A poet, a poet! It is better than nothing. But tell 
me truly, which do you esteem most highly, Mozart or 
Homer ? ' 

244 Gambara 

' I admire them equally/ 

' On your honour ? ' 

' On my honour.' 

*■ H'm ! Once more. What do you thinlc of Meyer- 
beer and Byron ? ' 

' You hâve measured them by naming them together.' 

The Count's carriage was in waiting. The composer 
and his noble physician ran down-stairs, and in a few min- 
utes they were with Marianna. 

As they went in, Gambara threw himself into his wife's 
arms, but she drew back a step and turned away her head ; 
the husband also drew back and beamed on the Count. 

' Oh, monsieur ! ' said Gambara in a husky voice, ' you 
might bave left me my illusions.' He hung his head, and 
then fell. 

' What hâve you done to him ? He is dead drunk ! ' 
cried Marianna, looking down at her husband with a min- 
gled expression of pity and disgust. 

The Count, with the help of his servant, picked up 
Gambara and laid him on his bed. 

Then Andréa left, his heart exultant with horrible glad- 

The Count let the usual hour for calling slip past next 
day, for he began to fear lest he had duped himself and had 
made this humble couple pay too dear for their improved 
circumstances and added wisdom, since their peace was 
destroyed for ever. 

At last Giardini came to him with a note from Marianna. 

' Come,' she wrote, ' the mischief is not so great as you 
so cruelly meant it to be.' 

' Eccellenza,' said the cook, while Andréa was making 
ready, ' you treated us splendidly last evening. But apart 
from the wine, which was excellent, your steward did not 
put anything on the table that was worthy to set before a 
true epicure. You will not deny, I suppose, that the dish I 

Gambara 245 

sent up to you on the day when you did me the honour to 
sit down at my board, contained the quintessence of ail 
those that disgraced your magnificent service of plate ? And 
when I awoke this morning I remembered the promise you 
once made me of a place as chef. Henceforth I consider 
myself as a member of your household.' 

' I thought of the same thing a few days ago,' replied 
Andréa. ' I mentioned you to the secretary of the Austrian 
Embassy, and you hâve permission to recross the Alps as 
soon as you please. I hâve a castle in Croatia which I 
rarely visit. There you may combine the offices of gate- 
keeper, butler, and steward, with two hundred crowns a 
year. Your wife will hâve as much for doing ail the rest 
of the work. You may make ail the experiments you 
please in anima vili^ that is to say on the stomach of my vas- 
sals. Hère is a chèque for your travelling expenses.' 

Giardini kissed the Count's hand after the Neapolitan 

' Eccellenza,' said he, ' I accept the chèque, but beg to 
décline the place. It would dishonour me to give up my 
art by losing the opinion of the most perfect epicures, who 
are certainly to be found in Paris.' 

When Andréa arrived at Gambara's lodgings, the musi- 
cian rose to welcome him. 

' My generous friend,' said he, with the utmost frank- 
ness, ' you either took advantage, last evening, of the weak- 
ness of my brain to make a fool of me, or else your brain 
is no more capable of standing the test of the heady liquors 
of our native Latium, than mine is. I will assume this latter 
hypothesis ; I would rather doubt your digestion than your 
heart. Be this as it may, henceforth I drink no more wine 
— for ever. The abuse of good liquor last evening led me 
into much guilty folly. When I remember that I very 
nearly — ' He gave a glance of terror at Marianna. ' As 
to the wretched opéra you took me to hear, I hâve thought 
it over, and it is, after ail, music written on ordinary lines. 

1246 Gambara 

a mountain of piled-up notes, verba et voces. It is but the 
dregs of the nectar I can drink in deep draughts as I repro- 
duce the heavenly music that I hear ! It is a patchwork 
of airs of which I could trace the origin. The passage, 
" Gloire à la Providence " is too much like a bit of Hândel ; 
the chorus of knights is closely related to the Scotch air in 
La Dame Blanche; in short, if this opéra is a success, it is 
because the music is borrowed from everybody's — so it 
ought to be popular. 

' I will say good-bye to you, my dear friend. I hâve 
had some ideas seething in my brain since the morning 
that only wait to soar up to God on the wings of song, 
but I wished to see you. Good-bye ; I must ask forgive- 
ness of the Muse. We shall meet at dinner to-night — 
but no wine ; at any rate, none for me. I am firmly 
resolved ' 

' I give him up ! ' cried Andréa, flushing red. 

* And you restore my sensé of conscience,' said Mari- 
anna. ' I dared not appeal to it ! My friend, my friend, 
it is no fault of ours ; he does not want to be cured.' 

Six years after this, in January, 1837, such artists as 
were so unlucky as to damage their wind or stringed instru- 
ments, generally took them to the Rue Froidmanteau, to a 
squalid and horrible house, where, on the fifth floor, dwelt 
an old Italian named Gambara. 

For five years past he had been left to himself, deserted 
by his wife ; he had gone through many misfortunes. An 
instrument on which he had relied to make his fortune, and 
which he called a Panharînonicon^ had been sold by order 
of the Court on the public square. Place du Châtelet, 
together with a cartload of music paper scrawled with 
notes. The day after the sale, thèse scores had served 
in the market to wrap up butter, fish, and fruit. 

Thus the three grand opéras of which the poor man 
would boast, but which an old Neapolitan cook, who was 

Gambara 247 

now but a patcher up of broken méats, declared to be a 
heap of nonsense, were scattered throughout Paris on the 
trucks of costermongers. But at any rate, the landlord had 
got his rent and the bailifFs their expenses. 

According to the Neapolitan cook — who warmed up for 
the street-walkers of the Rue Froidmanteau the fragments 
left from the most sumptuous dinners in Paris — Signora 
Gambara had gone ofF to Italy with a Milanese nobleman, 
and no one knew what had become of her. Worn out 
with fifteen years of misery, she was very likely ruining 
the Count by her extravagant luxury, for they were so 
devotedly adoring that, in ail his life, Giardini could recall 
no instance of such a passion. 

Towards the end of that very January, one evening 
when Giardini was chatting with a girl who had corne to 
buy her supper, about the divine Marianna — so poor, so 
beautiful, so heroically devoted, and who had, nevertheless, 
'gone the way of them ail,' the cook, his wife, and the 
street-girl saw coming towards them a woman fearfully 
thin, with a sunburnt, dusty face ; a nervous walking skele- 
ton, looking at the numbers, and trying to recognise a house. 

' Ecco la Marianna ! ' exclaimed the cook. 

Marianna recognised Giardini, the erewhile cook, in the 
poor fellow she saw, without wondering by what séries of 
disasters he had sunk to keep a misérable shop for second- 
hand food. She went in and sat down, for she had come 
from Fontainebleau. She had walked fourteen leagues that 
day, after begging her bread from Turin to Paris. 

She frightened that terrible trio! Of ail her wondrous 
beauty nothing remained but her fine eyes, dimmed and 
sunken. The only thing faithful to her was misfortune. 

She was welcomed by the skilled old instrument mender, 
who greeted her with unspeakable joy. 

' Why, hère you are, my poor Marianna ! ' said he, 
warmly. ' During your absence they sold up my instru- 
ment and my opéras.' 

248 Gambara 

It would hâve been difficult to kill the fatted calf for the 
return of the Samaritan, but Giardini contributed the fag 
end of a salmon, the trull paid for wine, Gambara pro- 
duced some bread, Signera Giardini lent a cloth, and the 
unfortunates ail supped together in the musician's garret. 

When questioned as to her adventures, Marianna would 
make no reply ; she only raised her beautiful eyes to heaven 
and whispered to Giardini, — 

' He married a dancer ! ' 

' And how do you mean to live ? ' said the girl. *■ The 
journey has ruined you, and ' 

' And made me an old woman,' said Marianna. ' No, 
that is not the resuit of fatigue or hardship, but of grief.' 

' And why did you never send your man hère any money ? ' 
asked the girl. 

Marianna's only answer was a look, but it went to the 
woman's heart. 

*■ She is proud with a vengeance ! ' she exclaimed. ' And 
much good it has done her ! ' she added, in Giardini's ear. 

Ail that year musicians took especial care of their in- 
struments, and repairs did not bring in enough to enable 
the poor couple to pay their way ; the wife, too, did not 
earn much by her needle, and they were compelled to turn 
their talents to account in the lowest form of employment. 
They would go out together in the dark to the Champs 
Elysées and sing duets, which Gambara, poor fellow, accom- 
panied on a wretched guitar. On the way Marianna, who 
on thèse expéditions covered her head with a sort of veil 
of coarse muslin, would take her husband to a grocer's shop 
in the Faubourg Saint-Honoré and give him two or three 
thimblefuls of brandy to make him tipsy ; otherwise he 
could not play. Then they would stand up together in 
front of the smart people sitting on the chairs, and one of 
the greatest geniuses of the time, the unrecognised Orpheus 
of Modem Music, would perform passages from his opéras 
— pièces se remarkable that they could extract a few half- 

Gambara 249 

pence from Parisian supineness. When some dilettante of 
comic opéras happened to be sitting there and did not rec- 
ognise from what work they were taken, he would question 
the woman dressed like a Greek pricstcss, who held out a 
bottle-stand of stamped métal in which she collected charity. 

' I say, my dear, what is that music out of ? ' 

' The opéra of Mahomet^ Marianna would reply. 

As Rossini composed an opéra called Mahomet 11^ the 
amateur would say to his wife, sitting at his side, — 

' What a pity it is that they will never give us at the 
Italiens any opéras by Rossini but those we know. That 
is really very fine music ! ' 

And Gambara would smile. 

Only a few days since, this unhappy couple had to pay 
the trifling sum of thirty-six francs as arrears of rent for 
the cock-loft in which they lived resigned. The grocer 
would not give them crédit for the brandy with which 
Marianna plied her husband to enable him to play. Gam- 
bara was, consequently, so unendurably bad that the ears 
of the wealthy were irresponsive, and the tin bottle-stand 
remained empty. 

It was nine o'clock in the evening. A handsome Italian, 
the Principessa Massimilla Di Varese, took pity on the poor 
créatures ; she gave them forty francs and questioned them, 
discerning from the woman's thanks that she was a Vene- 
tian. Prince Emilio would know the history of their woes, 
and Marianna told it, making no complaints of God or 

' Madame,' said Gambara, as she ended, for he was sober, 
' we are the victims of our own superiority. My music is 
good. But as soon as music transcends feeling and be- 
comes an idea, only persons of genius should be the hearers, 
for they alone are capable of responding to it ! It is my 
misfortune that I hâve heard the chorus of angels, and be- 
lieved that men could understand those strains. The same 

250 Gambara 

thing happens to women when their love assumes a divine 
aspect : men cannot understand them.' 

This speech was well worth the forty francs bestowed 
by Massimilla; she took out a second gold pièce, and told 
Marianna she would write to Andréa Marcosini. 

' Do not write to him, Madame ! ' exclaimed Marianna. 
' And God grant you to be always beautiful ! ' 

' Let us provide for them,' said the Princess to her hus- 
band ; ' for this man has remained faithful to the Idéal 
which we hâve killed,' 

As he saw the gold pièces, Gambara shed tears ; and 
then a vague réminiscence of old scientific experiments 
crossed his mind, and the hapless composer, as he wiped 
his eyes, spoke thèse words, which the circumstances made 
pathetic : 

' Water is a product of burning.' 

Paris, June, 1837. 


To Jacques Strunz 

My Dear Strunz : — / should be ungrateful if I dtd not 
set your name at the head of one of the two taies I could never 
hâve written but for your patient kindness and care. Accept 
this as my grateful acknowledgment of the readiness with which 
you tried — perhaps not very successfully — to initiate me into 
the mysteries of musical knowledge. Tou hâve at leasî taught 
me what difficulties and what labour genius must bury in those 
poems which procure us transcendental pleasures. Tou hâve also 
afforded me the satisfaction of laughing more than once at the 
expense of a self-styled connaisseur. 

Some hâve taxed me with ignorance^ not knowing thaï I hâve 
taken counsel of one of our best musical critics^ and had the 
benefit of your conscientious help. I hâve., perhaps,^ been an 
inaccurate amanuensis. If this were the case., I should be the 
traitorous translator without knowing it^ and I yet hope to sign 
myself always one of your friends. „ „ 

As ail who are learned in such matters know, the Ve- 
netian aristocracy is the first in Europe. Its Libro d' Oro 
dates from before the Crusades, from a time when Venice, 
a survivor of Impérial and Christian Rome which had 
flung itself into the waters to escape the Barbarians, was 
already powerful and illustrious, and the head of the politi- 
cal and commercial world. 


252 Massimilla Doni 

With a few rare exceptions this brilliant nobility has 
fallen into utter ruin, Among the gondoliers who serve 
the English — to whom history hère reads the lesson of 
their future fate — there are descendants of long dead 
Doges whose names are older than those of sovereigns. 
On some bridge, as you glide past it, if you are ever in 
Venice, you may admire some lovely girl in rags, a poor 
child belonging, perhaps, to one of the most famous pa- 
trician familles. When a nation of kings has fallen so 
low, naturally some curious characters will be met with. 
It is not surprising that sparks should flash out among the 

Thèse reflections, intended to justify the singularity of 
the persons who figure in this narrative, shall not be 
indulged in any longer, for there is nothing more intol- 
érable than the stale réminiscences of those who insist on 
talking about Venice after so many great poets and petty 
travellers. The interest of the taie requires only this 
record of the most startling contrast in the life of man : 
the dignity and poverty which are as conspicuous there 
in some of the men as they are in most of the houses. 

The nobles of Venice and of Geneva, like those of 
Poland in former times, bore no titles. To be named 
Quirini, Doria, Brignole, Morosini, Sauli, Mocenigo, 
Fieschi, Cornaro, or Spinola, was enough for the pride of 
the haughtiest. But ail things become corrupt. At the 
présent day some of thèse families hâve titles. 

And even at a time when the nobles of the aristocratie 
republics were ail equal, the title of Prince was, in fact, 
given at Genoa to a member of the Doria family, who 
were sovereigns of the principality of Amalfi, and a similar 
title was in use at Venice, justified by ancient inheritance 
from Facino Cane, Prince of Varese. The Grimaldi, 
who assumed sovereignty, did not take possession of Mon- 
aco till much later, 

The last Cane of the elder branch vanished from Venice 

Massimilla Doni 253 

thirty years before the fall of the Republic, condemned for 
various crimes more or less criminal. The branch on whom 
this nominal principality then devolved, the Cane Memmi, 
sank into poverty during the fatal period between 1796 and 
18 14. In the twentieth year of the présent century they 
were represented only by a young man whose name was 
Emilio, and an old palace which is regarded as one of the 
chief ornaments of the Grand Canal. This son of Venice 
the Fair had for his whole fortune this useless palazzo, and 
fifteen hundred francs a year derived from a country house 
on the Brenta, the last plot of the lands his family had 
formerly owned on terra firma^ and sold to the Austrian 
government. This little income spared our handsome 
Emilio the ignominy of accepting, as many nobles did, 
the indemnity of a franc a day, due to every impoverished 
patrician under the stipulations of the cession to Austria. 

At the beginning of winter, this young gentleman was 
still lingering in a country house situated at the base of the 
Tyrolese Alps, and purchased in the previous spring by the 
Duchess Cataneo. The house, erected by Palladio for 
the Piepolo family, is a square building of the finest style 
of architecture. There is a stately staircase with a marble 
portico on each side ; the vestibules are crowded with 
frescoes, and made light by sky-blue ceilings across which 
graceful figures float amid ornament rich in design, but so 
well proportioned that the building carries it, as a woman 
carries her head-dress, with an ease that charms the eye ; in 
short, the grâce and dignity that characterise the Procuratie 
in the piazzetta at Venice. Stone walls, admirably deco- 
rated, keep the rooms at a pleasantly cool température. 
Verandahs outside, painted in fresco, screen ofF the glare. 
The flooring throughout is the old Venetian inlay of mar- 
bles, eut into unfading flowers. 

The furniture, like that of ail Italian palaces, was rich 
with handsome silks, judiciously employed, and valuable 
pictures favourably hung ; some by the Genoese priest, 

254 Massimilla Doni 

known as // Capucino^ several by Leonardo da Vinci, Carlo 
Dolci, Tintoretto, and Titian. 

The shelving gardens were full of the marvels where 
money has been^ turned into rocky grottoes and patterns 
of shells, — the very madness of craftsmanship, — terraces 
laid out by the fairies, arbours of sterner aspect, where the 
cypress on its tall trunk, the triangular pines, and the melan- 
choly olive mingled pleasingly with orange trees, bays, and 
myrtles, and clear pools in which blue or russet fishes swam. 
Whatever may be said in favour of the natural or English 
garden, thèse trees, pruned into parasols, and yews fantasti- 
cally clipped ; this luxury of art so skilfully combined with 
that of nature in Court dress ; those cascades over marble 
steps where the water spreads so shyly, a filmy scarf swept 
aside by the wind and immediately renewed ; those bronzed 
métal figures speechlessly inhabiting the silent grove ; that 
lordly palace, an object in the landscape from every side, 
raising its light outline at the foot of the Alps, — ail the 
living thoughts which animate the stone, the bronze, and 
the trees, or express themselves in garden-plots, — this 
lavish prodigality was in perfect keeping with the loves 
of a duchess and a handsome youth, for they are a poem 
far removed from the coarse ends of brutal nature. 

Any one with a soûl for fantasy would hâve looked to 
see, on one of those noble flights of steps, standing by a 
vase with médaillons in bas-relief, a negro boy swathed 
about the loins with scarlet stufF, and holding in one hand 
a parasol over the Duchess's head, and in the other the train 
of her long skirt, while she listened to Emilio Memmi. 
And how far grander the Venetian would hâve looked in 
such a dress as the senators wore whom Titian painted. 

But alas ! in this fairy palace, not unlike that of the 
Peschieri at Genoa, the Duchess Cataneo obeyed the edicts 
of Victorine and the Paris fashions, She had on a muslin 
dress and broad straw hat, pretty shot silk shoes, thread lace 
stockings that a breath of air would hâve blown away ; 

Massimilla Doni 255 

and over her shoulders a black lace shawl. But the thing 
which no one could ever understand in Paris, where women 
are sheathed in their dresses as a dragon-fly is cased in its 
annular armour, was the perfect freedom with which this 
lovely daughter of Tuscany wore her French attire ; she 
had Itahanised it. A Frenchwoman treats her skirt with 
the greatest seriousness ; an Italian never thinks about it ; 
she does not attempt self-protection by some prim glance, 
for she knows that she is safe in that of a devoted love, a 
passion as sacred and serious in her eyes as in those of 

At eleven in the forenoon, after a walk, and by the side of 
a table still strewn with the remains of an élégant breakfast, 
the Duchess, lounging in an easy-chair, left her lover the 
master of thèse muslin draperies, without a frown each time 
he moved. Emilio, seated at her side, held one of her hands 
between his, gazing at her with utter absorption. Ask not 
whether they loved ; they loved only too well. They were 
not reading out of the same book, like Paolo and Francesca; 
far from it, Emilio dared not say : ' Let us read.' The 
gleam of those eyes, those glistening grey irises streaked 
with threads of gold that started from the centre like rifts 
of light, giving her gaze a soft, star-like radiance, thrilled 
him with nervous rapture that was almost a spasm. Some- 
times the mère sight of the splendid black hair that crowned 
the adored head, bound by a simple gold fillet, and falling 
in satin tresses on each side of a spacious brow, was enough 
to give him a ringing in his ears, the wild tide of the blood 
rushing through his veins as if it must burst his heart. By 
what obscure phenomenon did his soûl so overmaster his 
body that he was no longer conscious of his independent 
self, but was wholly one with this woman at the least word 
she spoke in that voice which disturbed the very sources 
of life in him ? If, in utter seclusion, a woman of moder- 
ate charms can, by being constantly studied, seem suprême 

256 Massimilla Doni 

and imposing, perhaps one so magnificently handsome as 
the Duchess could fascinate to stupidity a youth in whom 
rapture found some fresh incitement ; for she had really 
absorbed his young soûl. 

Massimilla, the heiress of the Doni, of Florence, had 
married the Sicilian Duke Cataneo. Her mother, since 
dead, had hoped, by promoting this marriage, to leave her 
rich and happy, according to Florentine custom. She had 
concluded that her daughter, emerging from a convent to 
embark in life, would achieve, under the laws of love, that 
second union of heart with heart which, to an Italian 
woman, is ail in ail. But Massimilla Doni had acquired 
in her convent a real taste for a religious life, and, when 
she had pledged her troth to Duke Cataneo, she was 
Christianly content to be his wife. 

This u^as an untenable position. Cataneo, who only 
looked for a duchess, thought himself ridiculous as a hus- 
band ; and, when Massimilla complained of his indifférence, 
he calmly bid her look about her for a cavalière servente,, 
even ofFering his services to introduce to her some youths 
from whom to choose. The Duchess wept ; the Duke 
made his bow. 

Massimilla looked about her at the world that crowded 
round her ; her mother took her to the Pergola, to some 
ambassadors' drawing-rooms, to the Cascine — wherever 
handsome young men of fashion were to be met ; she saw 
none to her mind, and determined to travel. Then she 
lost her mother, inherited her property, assumed mourning, 
and made her way to Venice. There she saw Emilio, 
who, as he went past her opéra box, exchanged with her a 
flash of enquiry. 

This was ail. The Venetian was thunderstruck, while a 
voice in the Duchess's ear called out : ' This is he ! ' 

Anywhere else two persons more prudent and less guile- 
less would hâve studied and examined each other; but 
thèse two ignorances mingled like two masses of homo- 

Massimilla Doni 257 

geneous matter, which, when they meet, form but one. 
Massimilla was at once and thenceforth Venetian. She 
bought the palazzo she had rented on the Canareggio ; and 
then, not knowing how to invest her wealth, she had pur- 
chased Rivalta, the country-place where she was now 

Emilio, being introduced to the Duchess by the Signora 
Vulpato, waited very respectfully on the lady in her box 
ail through the winter. Never was love more ardent in 
two soûls, or more bashful in its advances. The two 
children were afraid of each other. Massimilla was no 
coquette. She had no second string to her bow, no 
seconda^ no /t-rzo, no patito. Satisfied with a smile and 
Word, she admired her Venetian youth, with his pointed 
face, his long, thin nose, his black eyes, and noble brow ; 
but, in spite of her artless encouragement, he never went 
to her house till they had spent three months in getting 
used to each other. 

Then summer brought its Eastern sky. The Duchess 
lamented having to go alone to Rivalta. Emilio, at once 
happy and uneasy at the thought of being alone with her, 
had accompanied Massimilla to her retreat. And now 
this pretty pair had been hère for six months. 

Massimilla, now twenty, had not sacrificed her religious 
principles to her passion without a struggle. Still they 
had yielded, though tardily ; and at this moment she would 
hâve been ready to consummate the love union for which 
her mother had prepared her, as Emilio sat there holding 
her beautiful, aristocratie hand, — long, white, and sheeny, 
ending in fine, rosy nails, as if she had procured from Asia 
some of the henna with which the Sultan's wives dye their 

A misfortune, of which she was unconscious, but which 

was torture to Emilio, kept up a singular barrier between 

them. Massimilla, young as she was, had the majestic 

bearing which mythological tradition ascribes to Juno, the 


258 Massimilla Doni 

only goddess to whom it does not give a lover; for Diana, 
the chaste Diana, lôved ! Jupiter alone could hold his 
own with his divine better-half, on whom many English 
ladies model themselves. 

Emilio set his mistress far too high ever to touch her. A 
year hence, perhaps, he might not be a victim to this noble 
error which attacks none but very young or very old men. 
But as the archer who shoots beyond the mark is as far 
from it as he whose arrow falls short of it, the Duchess 
found herself betvi^een a husband who knew he was so far 
from reaching the target, that he had ceased to try for it, 
and a lover who was carried so much past it on the white 
wings of an angel, that he could not get back to it. Mas- 
similla could be happy with désire, not imagining its issue; 
but her lover, distressful in his happiness, would sometimes 
obtain from his beloved a promise that led her to the edge 
of what many women call ' the gulf,' and thus found him- 
self obliged to be satisfied with plucking the flowers at the 
edge, incapable of daring more than to pull off their petals, 
and smother his torture in his heart. 

They had wandered out together that morning, repeating 
such a hymn of love as the birds warbled in the branches. 
On their return, the youth, whose situation can only be 
described by comparing him to the cherubs represented by 
painters as having only a head and wings, had been so im- 
passioned as to venture to hint a doubt as to the Duchess's 
entire dévotion, so as to bring her to the point of saying: 
' What proof do you need ? ' 

The question had been asked with a royal air, and 
Memmi had ardently kissed the beautiful and guileless 
hand. Then he suddenly started up in a rage with him- 
self, and left the Duchess. Massimilla remained in her 
indolent attitude on the sofa ; but she wept, wondering 
how, young and handsome as she was, she could fail to 
please Emilio. Memmi, on the other hand, knocked his 
head against the tree-trunks like a hooded crow. 

Massimilla Doni 259 

But at this moment a servant came in pursuit of the 
young Venetian to deliver a letter brought by express 

Marco Vendramini, — a name also pronounced Vendra- 
min, in the Venetian dialect, which drops many final 
letters, — bis only friend, wrote to tell him that Facino 
Cane, Prince of Varese, had died in a hospital in Paris. 
Proofs of bis death bad come to band, and tbe Cane- 
Memmi were Princes of Varese. In tbe eyes of tbe two 
young men a title witbout wealtb being wortbless, Vendra- 
min also informed Emilio, as of a far more important fact, 
of the eno-aeement at the Fenice of tbe famous ténor Geno- 
vase, and the no less famous Signora Tinti. 

Witbout waiting to finish tbe letter, which he crumpled 
up and put in bis pocket, Emilio ran to communicate this 
great news to the Duchess, forgetting bis beraldic bonours. 

The Duchess knew notbing of the strange story which 
made La Tinti an object of curiosity in Italy, and Emilio 
briefly repeated it. 

This illustrious singer bad been a mère inn-servant, 
wbose wonderful voice bad captivated a great Sicilian noble- 
man on bis trav^els. The girl's beauty — she was then twelve 
years old — being worthy of ber voice, tbe gentleman bad 
had tbe modération to bave ber brought up, as Louis XV 
had Mademoiselle de Romans educated. He had waited 
patiently till Clara's voice bad been fully trained by a 
famous professer, and till she was sixteen, before taking 
toll of the treasure so carefully cultivated. 

La Tinti had made ber début the year before, and had 
enchanted the three most fastidious capitals of Italy. 

' I am perfectly certain that ber great nobleman is not 
my busband,' said tbe Duchess. 

Tbe borses were ordered, and tbe Duchess set out at 
once for Venice, to be présent at tbe opening of tbe winter 

26o Massimilla Doni 

So one fine evening in November, the new Prince of 
Varese was crossing the lagoon from Mestre to Venice, 
between the lines of stakes painted with Austrian colours, 
which mark out the channel for gondolas as conceded by 
the custom-house. As he watched Massimilla's gondola, 
navigated by men in livery, and cutting through the water 
a few yards in front, poor Emilio, with only an old gon- 
dolier who had been his father's servant in the days when 
Venice was still a living city, could not repress the bitter 
reflections suggested to him by the assumption of his title. 

' What a mockery of fortune ! A prince — with fifteen 
hundred francs a year! Master of one of the finest palaces 
in the world, and unable to sell the statues, stairs, paintings, 
sculpture, which an Austrian decree had made inaliénable ! 
To live on a foundation of piles of campeachy wood worth 
nearly a million of francs, and hâve no furniture ! To own 
sumptuous galleries, and live in an attic above the topmost 
arabesque cornice constructed of marble brought from 
the Morea — the land which a Memmius had marched over 
as conqueror in the time of the Romans ! To see his an- 
cestors in effigy on their tombs of precious marbles in one 
of the most splendid churches in Venice, and in a chapel 
graced with pictures by Titian and Tintoretto, by Palma, 
Bellini, Paul Veronese — and to be prohibited from selling 
a marble Memmi to the English for bread for the living 
Prince Varese ! Genovese, the famous ténor, could get in 
one season, by his warbling, the capital of an income on 
which this son of the Memmi could live — this descendant 
of Roman senators as vénérable as Cassar and Sylla. Gen- 
ovese may smoke an Eastern hookah, and the Prince of 
Varese cannot even hâve enough cigars ! ' 

He tossed the end he was smoking into the sea. The 
Prince of Varese found cigars at the Duchess Cataneo's; 
how gladly would he hâve laid the treasures of the world at 
her feet ! She studied ail his caprices, and was happy to 
gratify them. He made his only meal at her house — his 

Massimilla Doni 261 

supper ; for ail his money was spent in clothes and his place 
in the Fenice. He had also to pay a hundred francs a year as 
wages to his father's old gondolier; and he, to serve him for 
that sum, had to live exclusively on rice. Also he kept 
enough to take a cup of black cofFee every morning at 
Florian's to keep himself up till the evening in a state of 
nervous excitement, and this habit, carried to excess, he 
hoped would in due time kill him, as Vendramin relied on 

*• And I am a prince ! ' 

As he spoke the words, Emilio Memmi tossed Marco 
Vendramin's letter into the lagoon without even reading it 
to the end, and it floated away like a paper boat launched 
by a child. 

* But Emilio,' he went on to himself, ' is but three and 
twenty. He is a better man than Lord Wellington with 
the goût, than the paralysed Régent, than the epileptic 
royal family of Austria, than the King of France ' 

But as he thought of the King of France Emilio's brow 
was knit, his ivory skin burned yellower, tears gathered in 
his black eyes and hung to his long lashes; he raised a 
hand worthy to be painted by Titian to push back his thick 
brown hair, and gazed again at Massimilla's gondola. 

'And this insolent mockery of fate is carried even into 
my love afFair,' said he to himself. ' My heart and imagi- 
nation are fuU of precious gifts ; Massimilla will none of 
them ; she is a Florentine, and she will throvi' me ovcr. I 
hâve to sit by her side like ice, while her voice and her 
looks fire me vi^ith heavenly sensations ! As I w^atch her 
gondola a few^ hundred feet av^^ay from my ow^n I feel as if 
a hot iron were set on my heart. An invisible fluid courses 
through my frame and scorches my nerves, a cloud dims 
my sight, the air seems to me to glow as it did at Rivalta 
when the sunlight came through a red silk blind, and I, w^ith- 
out her knovi'ing it, could admire her lost in dreams, vi^ith 
her subtle smile like that of Leonardo's Mona Lisa. 

262 Massimilla Doni 

Well, either my Highness will end my days by a pistol- 
shot, or the heir of the Cane will follow old Carmagnola's 
advice ; we will be sailors, pirates ; and it will be amusing 
to see how long we can live without being hanged.' 

The Prince lighted another cigar, and watched the curls 
of smoke as the wind wafted them away, as though he saw 
in their arabesques an écho of this last thought. 

In the distance he could now perceive the mauresque 
pinnacles that crowned his palazzo, and he was sadder 
than ever. The Duchess's gondola had vanished in the 

Thèse fantastic pictures of a romantic and perilous ex- 
istence, as the outcome of his love, went out with his cigar, 
and his lady's gondola no longer traced his path. Then he 
saw the présent in its real light : a palace without a soûl, 
a soûl that had no efFect on the body, a principality with- 
out money, an empty body and a full heart — a thousand 
heartbreaking contradictions. The hapless youth mourned 
for Venice as she had been, — as did Vendramini, even 
more bitterly, for it was a great and common sorrow, a 
similar destiny, that had engendered such a warm friend- 
ship between thèse two young men, the wreckage of two 
illustrious families. 

Emilio could not help dreaming of a time when the 
palazzo Memmi poured light from every window, and 
rang with music carried far away over the Adriatic tide ; 
when hundreds of gondolas might be seen tied up to its 
mooring-posts, while graceful masked figures and the mag- 
nâtes of the Republic crowded up the steps kissed by the 
waters; when its halls and gallery were full of a throng of 
intriguers or their dupes ; when the great banqueting-hall, 
filled with merry feasters, and the upper balconies furnished 
with musicians, seemed to harbour ail Venice coming and 
going on the great staircase that rang with laughter. 

The chisels of the greatest artists of many centuries had 
sculptured the bronze brackets supporting long-necked or 

Massimilla Doni 263 

pot-bellied Chinese vases, and the candelabra for a thousand 
tapers. Every country had furnished some contribution to 
the splendour that decked the walls and ceilings. But now 
the panels were stripped of the handsome hangings, the 
melancholy ceilings were speechless and sad. No Turkey 
carpets, no lustres bright with flowers, no statues, no pict- 
ures, no more joy, no money — the great means to enjoy- 
ment ! Venice, the London of the Middle Ages, was 
falling stone by stone, man by man. The ominous green 
weed which the sea washes and kisses at the foot of every 
palace, was, in the Prince's eyes, a black fringe hung by 
nature as an omen of death. 

And finally, a great English poet had rushed down on 
Venice like a raven on a corpse, to croak out in lyric poe- 
try — the first and last utterance of social man — the bur- 
then of a de profundis. English poetry ! Flung in the face 
of the city that had given birth to Italian poetry ! Poor 
Venice ! 

Conceive, then, of the young man's amazement when 
roused from such méditations by Carmagnola's cry : — 

' Serenissimo, the palazzo is on fire, or the old Doges 
hâve risen from their tombs ! There are lights in the Win- 
dows of the upper floor ! ' 

Prince Emilio fancied that his dream was realised by the 
touch of a magie wand. It was dusk, and the old gondo- 
lier could by tying up his gondola to the top step, help his 
young master to land without being seen by the bustling 
servants in the palazzo, some of whom were buzzing about 
the landing-place like bées at the door of a hive. Emilio 
stole into the great hall, whence rose the finest flight of 
stairs in ail Venice, up which he lightly ran to investigate 
the cause of this strange bustle. 

A whole tribe of workmen were hurriedly completing 
the furnishing and redecoration of the palace. The first 
floor, worthy of the antique glories of Venice, displayed 
to Emilio's waking eyes the magnificence of which he 

264 Massimilla Doni 

had just been dreaming, and the fairy had exercised ad- 
mirable taste. Splendour worthy of a parvenu sovereign 
was to be seen even in the smallest détails. Emilio wan- 
dered about without remark from anybody, and surprise 
followed on surprise. 

Curious, then, to know what was going forward on the 
second floor, he went up, and found everything finished. 
The unknown labourers, commissioned by a wizard to 
revive the marvels of the Arabian nights in behalf of an 
impoverished Italian prince, were exchanging some infe- 
rior articles of furniture brought in for the nonce. Prince 
Emilio made his way into the bedroom, which smiled on 
him like a shell just deserted by Venus. The room w^as 
so charmingly pretty, so daintily smart, so full of élégant 
contrivance, that he straightway seated himself in an arm- 
chair of gilt w^ood, in front of which a most appetizing 
cold supper stood ready, and, without more ado, proceeded 
to eat. 

' In ail the world there is no one but Massimilla who 
would hâve thought of this surprise,' thought he. 'She 
heard that I was now a prince ; Duke Cataneo is perhaps 
dead, and has left her his fortune ; she is twice as rich as 
she was ; she will marry me ' 

And he ate in a way that would hâve roused the envy 
of an invalid Crœsus, if he could hâve seen him ; and he 
drank floods of capital port wine. 

'Now I understand the knowing little air she put on 
as she said, " Till this evening ! " Perhaps she means to 
come and break the spell. What a fine bed ! and in the 
bed-place such a pretty lamp ! Quite a Florentine idea ! ' 

There are some strongly blended natures on which ex- 
trêmes of joy or of grief hâve a soporific effect. Now 
on a youth so compounded that he could idéalise his mis- 
tress to the point of ceasing to think of her as a woman, 
this sudden incursion of wealth had the effect of a dose 
of opium. When the Prince had drunk the whole of the 

Massimilla Doni 26^ 

bottle of port, eaten half a fish and some portion of a 
French pâté, he felt an irrésistible longing for bed. Per- 
haps he was sufFering from a double intoxication. So he 
pulled ofF the counterpane, opened the bed, undressed in 
a pretty dressing-room, and lay down to meditate on 

' I forgot poor Carmagnola,' said he ; ' but my cook and 
butler will hâve provided for him.' 

At this juncture, a waiting-woman came in, lightly hum- 
ming an air from the Barbiere. She tossed a woman's 
dress on a chair, a whole outfit for the night, and said as 
she did so : — 

' Hère they come ! ' 

And in fact, a few minutes later a young lady came in, 
dressed in the latest French style, who might hâve sat for 
some English fancy portrait engraved for a Forget-me-not^ 
a Belle Assemblée^ or a Book of Beauty. 

The Prince shivered with delight and with fear, for, as 
you know, he was in love with Massimilla. But, in spite 
of this faith in love which fired his blood, and which of 
old inspired the painters of Spain, which gave Italy her 
Madonnas, created Michael Angelo's statues and Ghiberti's 
doors of the Baptistery, — désire had him in its toils, and 
agitated him without infusing into his heart that warm, 
ethereal glow which he felt at a look or a word from the 
Duchess. His soûl, his heart, his reason, every impulse 
of his will, revolted at the thought of an infidelity ; and 
yet that brutal, unreasoning infidelity domineered over his 
spirit. But the woman was not alone. 

The Prince saw one of those figures in which nobody 
believes when they are transferred from real Hfe, where 
we wonder at them, to the imagmary existence of a more or 
less literary description. The dress of this stranger, like 
that of ail Neapolitans, displayed five colours, if the black 
of his hat may count for a colour ; his trousers were olive- 
brown, his red waistcoat shone with gilt buttons, his coat 

266 Massimilla Doni 

was greenish, and his linen was more yellow than white. 
This personage seemed to hâve made it his business to 
verify the Neapolitan as represented by Gerolamo on the 
stage of his puppet show. His eyes looked like glass 
beads. His nose, Hke the ace of clubs, was horribly long 
and bulbous ; in fact, it did its best to conceal an opening 
which it would be an insuit to the human countenance to 
call a mouth; within, three or four tusks were visible, 
endowed, as it seemed, with a proper motion and fitting 
into each other. His fleshy ears drooped by their own 
weight, giving the créature a whimsical resemblance to 
a dog. 

His complexion, tainted, no doubt, by varions metallic 
infusions as prescribed by some Hippocrates, verged on 
black. A pointed skull, scarcely covered by a few straight 
hairs like spun glass, crowned this forbidding face with 
red spots. Finally, though the man was very thin and of 
médium height, he had long arms and broad shoulders. 

In spite of thèse hideous détails, and though he looked 
fully seventy, he did not lack a certain cyclopean dignity ; 
he had aristocratie manners and the confident demeanour 
of a rich man. 

Any one who could hâve found courage enough to study 
him, would hâve seen his history written by base passions 
on this noble clay degraded to mud. Hère was the man 
of high birth, who, rich from his earliest youth, had given 
up his body to debauchery for the sake of extravagant 
enjoyment. And debauchery had destroyed the human 
being and made another after its own image. Thousands 
of bottles of wine had disappeared undcr the purple arch- 
way of that preposterous nose, and left their dregs on his 
lips. Long and slow digestion had destroyed his teeth. 
His eyes had grown dim under the lamps of the gaming- 
table. The blood tainted with impurities had vitiated the 
nervous System. The expenditure of force in the task of 
digestion had undermined his intellect. Finally, amours 

Massimilla Doni 267 

had thinncd his hair. Each vice, like a greedy hcir, had 
stamped possession on some part of the living body. 

Those vvho watch nature detect her in jests of the 
shrewdest irony. For instance, she places toads in the 
neighbourhood of flowers, as she had placed this man by 
the side of this rose of love. 

' Will you play the violin this evening, my dear Duke ? ' 
asked the woman, as she unhooked a cord to let a hand- 
some curtain fall over the door. 

*■ Play the violin ! ' thought Prince Emilio. ' What can 
bave happened to my palazzo ? Am I awake ? Hère I 
am, in that woman's bed, and she certainly thinks herself 
at home — she has taken ofF her cloak ! Hâve I, like 
Vendramin, inhaled opium, and am I in the midst of one 
of those dreams in which he sees Venice as it was three 
centuries ago ? ' 

The unknown fair one, seated in front of a dressing- 
table blazing with wax lights, was unfastening her frippery 
with the utmost calmness. 

' Ring for Giulia,' said she ; ' I want to get my dress ofF.' 

At that instant, the Duke noticed that the supper had 
been disturbed; he looked round the room, and discovered 
the Prince's trousers hanging over a chair at the foot of the 

' Clarina, I vi^ill not ring ! ' cried the Duke, in a shrill 
voice of fury. ' I will not play the violin this evening, nor 
to-morrow, nor ever again ' 

' Ta, ta, ta, ta ! ' sang Clarina, on the four octaves of 
the same note, leaping from one to the next with the ease 
of a nightingale. 

' In spite of that voice, which would make your patron 
saint Clara envious, you are really too impudent, you ras- 
cally hussy ! ' 

' You hâve not brought me up to listen to such abuse,' 
said she, with some pride. 

' Hâve I brought you up to hide a man in your bed ? 

268 Massimilla Doni 

You are unworthy alike of my generos'ity and of my 
hatred ' 

' A man in my bed ! ' exclaimed Clarina, hastily look- 
ing round. 

'And after daring to eat our supper, as if he were at 
home,' added the Duke. 

' But am I not at home ? ' cried Emilie. * I am the 
Prince of Varese ; this palace is mine.' 

As he spoke, Emilio sat up in the bed, his handsome 
and noble Venetian head framed in the flowing hangings. 

At first Clarina laughed — one of those irrépressible fits 
of laughter which seize a girl when she meets with an ad- 
venture comic beyond ail conception. But her laughter 
ceased as she saw the young man, who, as has been said, 
was remarkably handsome, though but lightly attired ; the 
madness that possessed Emilio seized her, too, and, as she 
had no one to adore, no sensé of reason bridled her sudden 
fancy — a Sicilian woman in love. 

*■ Although this is the palazzo Memmi, I will thank your 
Highness to quit,' said the Duke, assuming the cold irony 
of a polished gentleman. 'I am at home hère.' 

' Let me tell you. Monsieur le Duc, that you are in my 
room, not in your own,' said Clarina, rousing herself from 
her amazement. ' If you hâve any doubts of my virtue, 
at any rate give me the benefit of my crime ' 

' Doubts ! Say proof positive, my lady ! ' 

* I swear to you that I am innocent,' replied Clarina. 

' What, then, do I see in that bed ? ' asked the Duke. 

*■ Old Ogre ! ' cried Clarina. ' If you believe your 
eyes rather than my assertion, you hâve ceased to love me. 
Go, and do not weary my ears ! Do you hear ? Go, 
Monsieur le Duc. This young Prince will repay you the 
million francs I hâve cost you, if you insist.' 

*■ I will repay nothing,' said Emilio, in an undertone. 

' There is nothing due ! A million is cheap for Clara 
Tinti when a man is so ugly. Now, go,' said she to the 

Massimilla Doni 269 

Duke. ' You dismissed me ; now I dismiss you. We are 

At a gesture on Cataneo's part, as he seemed inclined to 
dispute this order, which was given with an action worthy 
of Semiramis, — the part in which la Tinti had won her 
famé, — the prima donna flew at the old ape and put him 
out of the room. 

'If you do not leave me in quiet this evening, we never 
meet again. And my never counts for more than yours,' 
she added. 

' Quiet ! ' retorted the Duke, with a bitter laugh. ' Dear 
idol, it strikes me that I am leaving you agitata ! ' 

The Duke departed. 

His mean spirit was no surprise to Emilio. 

Every man who has accustomed himself to some par- 
ticular taste, chosen from among the various efFects of love, 
in harmony with his own nature, knows that no considéra- 
tion can stop a man who has allowed his passions to 
become a habit. 

Clarina bounded like a fawn from the door to the bed. 

' A prince, and poor, young, and handsome ! ' cried she. 
' Why, it is a perfect fairy taie ! ' 

The Sicilian perched herself on the bed with the artless 
freedom of an animal, the yearning of a plant for the sun, 
the airy motion of a branch waltzing to the breeze. As 
she unbuttoned the wristbands of her sleeves, she began to 
sing, not in the pitch that won her the applause of an 
audience at the Fenice^ but in a warble tender with émo- 
tion. Her song was a zéphyr carrying the caresses of her 
love to the heart. 

She stole a glance at Emilio, who was as much embar- 
rassed as she ; for this woman of the stage had lost ail the 
boldness that had sparkled in her eyes and given décision 
to her voice and gestures when she dismissed the Duke. 
She was as humble as a courtesan who has fallen in 

270 Massimilla Doni 

To picture la Tinti you must recall one of our best 
French singers when she came out in // Fazzoletto^ an opéra 
by Garcia that was then being played by an Italian Com- 
pany at the théâtre in the Rue Louvois. She was so beau- 
tiful that a Naples guardsman, having failed to win a 
hearing, killed himself in despair. The prima donna of 
the Fenice had the same refinement of features, the same 
élégant figure, and was equally young ; but she had in 
addition the warm blood of Sicily that gave a glow to her 
loveliness. Her voice was fuller and richer, and she had 
that air of native majesty that is characteristic of Italian 

La Tinti — whose name also resembled that which 
the French singer assumed — was now seventeen, and the 
poor Prince three and twenty. What mocking hand had 
thought it sport to bring the match so near to the powder ? 
A fragrant room hung with rose-coloured silk and brilliant 
with wax lights, a bed dressed in lace, a silent palace, and 
Venice ! Two young and beautiful créatures ! every rav- 
ishment at once. 

Emilio snatched up his trousers, jumped out of bed, 
escaped into the dressing-room, put on his clothes, came 
back and hurried to the door. 

Thèse were his thoughts while dressing : — 

' Massimilla, beloved daughter of the Doni, in whom 
Italian beauty is an hereditary prérogative, you who are 
worthy of the portrait of Margherita^ one of the few can- 
vases painted entirely by Raphaël to his glory ! My beau- 
tiful and saintly Mistress, shall I not hâve deserved you if 
I fly from this abyss of flowers ? Should I be worthy of 
you if I profaned a heart that is wholly yours ? No ; I 
will not fall into the vulgar snare laid for me by my 
rebellious sensés ! This girl has her Duke, mine be my 
Duchess ! ' 

As he lifted the curtain, he heard a moan. The heroic 
lover looked round and saw Clarina on her knees, her face 

Massimilla Doni 271 

hidden in the bed, choking with sobs. Is it to be believed ? 
The singer was lovelier kneeling thus, her face invisible, 
than even in her confusion with a glowing countenance. 
Her hair, which had fallen over her shoulders, her Magda- 
len-like attitude, the disorder of her half-unfastened dress, 
— the whole picture had been composed by the devil, 
who, as is vvell known, is a fine colourist, 

The Prince put his arm round the weeping girl, who 
slipped from him like a snake, and clung to one foot, 
pressing it to her beautiful bosom. 

' Will you explain to me,' said he, shaking his foot to 
free it from her embrace, ' how you happen to be in my 
palazzo ? How the impoverished Emilio Memmi ' 

' Emilio Memmi ! ' cried Tinti, rising. ' You said you 
were a Prince ? ' 

'A Prince since yesterday.' 

' You are in love with the Duchess Cataneo ! ' said she, 
looking at him from head to foot. 

Emilio stood mute, seeing that the prima donna was 
smilino; at him through her tears. 

' Your Highness does not know that the man who had 
me trained for the stage — that the Duke — is Cataneo 
himself. And your friend Vendramini, thinking to do you 
a service, let him this palace for a thousand crowns, for the 
period of my season at the Fenice. Dear idol of my 
heart ! ' she went on, taking his hand and drawing him 
towards her, ' why do you fly from one for whom many a 
man would run the risk of broken bones ? Love, you see, 
is always love. It is the same everywhere ; it is the sun of 
our soûls ; we can warm ourselves wherever it shines, and 
hère — now — it is full noonday. If to-morrow you are 
not satisfied, kill me ! But I shall survive, for I am a real 
beauty ! ' 

Emilio decided on remaining. When he signified his 
consent by a nod the impulse of delight that sent a shiver 
through Clarina seemed to him like a light from hell. 

272 Massimilla Doni 

Love had never before appeared to him in so impressive a 
for m. 

At that moment Carmagnola whistled loudly. 

' What can he want of me ? ' said the Prince. 

But bewildered by love, Emilio paid no heed to the gon- 
dolier's repeated signais. 

If you hâve never travelled in Switzerland you may per- 
haps read this description with pleasure ; and if you hâve 
clambered among those mountains you will not be sorry to 
be reminded of the scenery. 

In that sublime land, in the heart of a mass of rock riven 
by a gorge, — a valley as wide as the Avenue de Neuilly in 
Paris, but a hundred fathoms deep and broken into ravines, 
— flows a torrent coming from some tremendous height of 
the Saint-Gothard on the Simplon, which has formed a pool, 
I know not how many yards deep or how many feet long 
and wide, hemmed in by splintered cliffs of granité on 
which meadows find a place, with fir-trees between them, 
and enormous elms, and where violets also grow, and straw- 
berries. Hère and there stands a châlet and at the window 
you may see the rosy face of a yellow-haired Swiss girl. 
According to the moods of the sky the water in this tarn is 
blue and green, but as a sapphire is blue, as an emerald 
is green. Well, nothing in the world can give such an 
idea of depth, peace, immensity, heavenly love, and eternal 
happiness — to the most heedless traveller, the most hurried 
Courier, the most commonplace tradesman — as this liquid 
diamond into which the snow, gathering from the highest 
Alps, trickles through a natural channeî hidden under the 
trees and eaten through the rock, escaping below through a 
gap without a sound. The watery sheet overhanging the 
fall glides so gently that no ripple is to be seen on the sur- 
face which mirrors the chaise as you drive past. The post- 
boy smacks his whip ; you turn past a crag ; you cross a 
bridge : suddenly there is a terrifie uproar of cascades tum- 
bling together one upon another. The water, taking a 

Massimilla Donî 273 

mighty leap, is broken into a hundred falls, dashed to spray 
on the boulders ; it sparkles in a myriad jets against a mass 
that bas fallen from the heights that tower over the ravine 
exactly in the middle of the road that bas been so irresisti- 
bly eut by the most formidable of active forces. 

If you hâve formed a clear idea of this landscape, you 
will see in those sleeping waters the image of Emilio's love 
for the Duchess, and in the cascades leaping like a flock of 
sheep, an idea of bis passion shared with la Tinti. In the 
midst of bis torrent of love a rock stood up against which 
the torrent broke. The Prince, like Sisyphus, was con- 
stantlv under the stone. 

' What on earth does the Duke do with a violin ? ' he 
wondered. ' Do I owe this symphony to him ? ' 

He asked Clara Tinti. 

' My dear child,' — for she saw that Emilio was but a 
child, — 'dear child,' said she, 'that man, w^ho is a hun- 
dred and eighteen in the parish register of vice, and only 
forty-seven in the register of the Church, bas but one 
single joy left to him in life. Yes, everything is broken, 
everything in him is ruin or rags ; bis soûl, intellect, heart, 
nerves, — everything in man that can supply an impulse 
and remind him of beaven, either by désire or enjoyment, is 
bound up with music, or rather with one of the many efFects 
produced by music, the perfect unison of two voices, or 
of a voice with the top string of bis violin. The old ape 
sits on my knee, takes bis instrument, — he plays fairly 
well, — he produces the notes, and I try to imitate them. 
Then, wben the long -sought- for moment comes wben it 
is impossible to distinguish in the body of Sound which 
is the note on the violin and which proceeds from my 
throat, the old man falls into an ecstasy, bis dim eyes ligbt 
up with their last remaining fires, he is quite happy and 
will roll on the floor like a drunken man. 

' That is why he pays Genovese such a price. Geno- 
vese is the only ténor whose voice occasionally sounds in 

274 Massimilla Doni 

unison with mine. Either we really do sing exactly to- 
gether once or twice in an evening, or the Duke imagines 
that we do ; and for that imaginary pleasure he has 
bought Genovese. Genovese belongs to him. No the- 
atrical manager can engage that ténor without me, nor 
hâve me to sing without him. The Duke brought me 
up on purpose to gratify that whim ; to him I owe my 
talent, my beauty, — my fortune, no doubt. He will die 
of an attack of perfect unison. The sensé of hearing 
alone has survived the wreck of his faculties ; that is the 
one thread by which he holds on to life. A vigorous 
shoot springs from that rotten stump. There are, I am 
told, many men in the same predicament. May Madonna 
préserve them ! 

' You hâve not come to that ! You can do ail you 
want — ail I want of you, I know.' 

Towards morning the Prince stole away and found Car- 
magnola lying asleep across the door. 

'Altezza,' said the gondolier, 'the Duchess ordered me 
to give you this note.' 

He held out a dainty sheet of paper folded into a tri- 
angle. The Prince felt dizzy ; he went back into the 
room and dropped into a chair, for his sight was dim, and 
his hands shook as he read : — 

' Dear Emilio : — Your gondola stopped at your pa- 
lazzo. Did you not know that Cataneo has taken it for 
la Tinti ? If you love me, go to-night to Vendramin, 
who tells me he has a room ready for you in his house. 
What shall I do ? Can I remain in Venice to see my 
husband and his opéra singer? Shall we go back together 
to Friuli ? Write me one word, if only to tell me what 
the letter was that you tossed into the lagoon. 

' Massimilla Doni/ 

Massimilla Doni 275 

The writing and the scent of the paper brought a 
thousand memories back to the young Venetian's mind. 
The Sun of a single-minded passion threw its radiance on 
the blue depths corne from so far, collected in a bottomless 
pool, and shining like a star. The noble youth could not 
restrain the tears that flowed freely from his eyes, for in 
the languid state produced by satiated sensés he was 
disarmed by the thought of that purer divinity. 

Even in her sleep Clarina heard his weeping ; she sat 
up in bed, saw her Prince in a dejected attitude, and threw 
herself at his knees. 

* They are still waiting for the answer,' said Carmagnola, 
putting the curtain aside. 

' Wretch, you hâve undone me ! ' cried Emilio, starting 
up and spurning Clarina with his foot. 

She clutched it so lovingly, her look imploring some 
explanation, — the look of a tear-stained Samaritan, — that 
Emilio, enraged to iind himself still in the toils of the pas- 
sion that had wrought his fall, pushed away the singer with 
an unmanly kick. 

'You told me to kill you, — then die, venomous reptile!' 
he exclaimed. 

He left the palace, and sprang into his gondola. 

' Pull,' said he to Carmagnola. 

' Where ? ' asked the old servant. 

' Where you will.' 

The gondolier divined his master's wishes, and by many 
windings brought him at last into the Canareggio, to the 
door of a wonderful palazzo, which you will admire when 
you see Venice, for no traveller ever fails to stop in front 
of those Windows, each of différent design, vying with each 
other in fantastic ornament, with balconies like lace-work ; 
to study the corners finishing in tall and slender twisted 
columns, the string-courses wrought by so inventive a chisel 
that no two shapes are alike in the arabesques on the 

276 Massimilla Doni 

How charming is that doorway ! how mysterious the 
vaulted arcade leading to the stairs ! Who could fail to 
admire the steps on which ingenious art has laid a carpet 
that will last while Venice stands, — a carpet as rich as if 
wrought in Turkey, but composed of marbles in endiess 
variety of shapes, inlaid in white marble. You will delight 
in the charming ornament of the colonnades of the upper 
story, — gilt like those of the ducal palace, — so that the 
marvels of art are both under your feet and above your 

What délicate shadows ! How silent, how cool ! But 
how solemn, too, was that old palace ! where, to delight 
Emilio and his friend Vendramin, the Duchess had col- 
lected antique Venetian furniture, and employed skilled 
hands to restore the ceilings. There, old Venice lived 
again. The splendour was not merely noble, it was in- 
structive. The archaeologist would hâve there found such 
models of perfection as the middle âges produced, having 
taken example from Venice. Hère were to be seen the 
original ceilings of woodwork covered with scrolls and 
flowers in gold on a coloured ground, or in colours on 
gold, and ceilings of gilt plaster castings, with a picture 
of many figures in each corner, with a splendid fresco in 
the centre, — a style so costly that there are not two in the 
Louvre, and that the extravagance of Louis XIV shrunk 
from such expense at Versailles. On ail sides marble, 
wood, and silk had served as materials for exquisite work- 

Emilio pushed open a carved oak door, made his way 
down the long, vaulted passage which runs from end to 
end on each floor of a Venetian palazzo, and stopped before 
another door, so familiar that it made his heart beat. On 
seeing him, a lady companion came out of a vast drawing- 
room, and admitted him to a study where he found the 
Duchess on her knees in front of a Madonna. 

He had come to confess and ask forgiveness. Massi- 

Massimilla Doni 277 

milla, in prayer, had converted him. He and God ; noth- 
ing else dvvelt in that heart. 

The Duchess rose very unafFectedly, and held out her 
hand. Her lover did not take it. 

' Did not Gianbattista see you, yesterday ? ' she asked. 

' No,' replied he. 

' That pièce of ill luck gave me a night of misery. I 
was so afraid lest you might meet the Duke, whose perver- 
sity I knovv' too well. What made Vendramin let your 
palace to him ? ' 

* It was a good idea, Milla, for your Prince is poor 

Massimilla was so beautiful in her trust in him, and so 
wonderfully lovely, so happy in Emilio's présence, that at 
this moment the Prince, wide awake, experienced the sensa- 
tions of the horrible dream that torments persons of a lively 
imagination, in which after arriving in a ballroom full of 
women in full dress, the dreamer is suddenly aware that he 
is naked, without even a shirt ; shame and terror possess 
him by turns, and only waking can relieve him from 
his misery. Thus stood Emilio's soûl in the présence 
of his mistress. Hitherto that soûl had known only 
the fairest flowers of feeling ; a debauch had plunged 
it into dishonour. This none knew but he, for the 
beautiful Florentine ascribed so many virtues to her lover 
that the man she adored could not but be incapable of any 

As Emilio had not taken her hand, the Duchess pushed 
her fingers through his hair that the singer had kissed. 
Then she perceived that Emilio's hand was clammy and 
his brow moist. 

*■ What ails you .? ' she asked, in a voice to which tender- 
ness gave the sweetness of a flûte. 

'Never till this moment hâve I known how much I 
love you,' he replied. 

' Wellj dear idol, what would you hâve ? ' said she. 

278 Massimilla Doni 

' What hâve I donc to make her ask that ? ' he wondered 
to himself. 

'Emilio, what letter was that which you threw into the 
lagoon ? ' 

' Vendramini's. I had not read it to the end, or I should 
never hâve gone to my palazzo, and there hâve met the 
Duke; for no doubt it told me ail about it.' 

Massimilla turned pale, but a caress from Emilio reas- 
sured her. 

*Stay with me ail day; v^^e w^ill go to the opéra together. 
We v^'ill not set out for Friuli ; your présence will no doubt 
enable me to endure Cataneo's,' said Massimilla. 

Though this would be torment to her lover's soûl, he 
consented wlth apparent joy. 

If anything can give us a foretaste of what the damned 
will sufFer on finding themselves so unworthy of God, is it 
not the State a young man, as yet unpolluted, in the présence 
of a mistress he révères, while he still feels on his lips the 
taste of infidelity, and brings into the sanctuary of the divin- 
ity he worships the tainted atmosphère of the courtesan ? 

Baader, who in his lectures eliminated things divine by 
erotic imagery, had no doubt observed, like some Catholic 
writers, the intimate resemblance between human and 
heavenly love. 

This distress of mind cast a hue of melancholy over the 
pleasure the young Venetian felt in his mistress's présence. 
A woman's instinct has amazing aptitude for harmony of 
feeling ; it assumes the hue, it vibrâtes to the note sug- 
gested by her lover. The pungent flavour of coquettish 
spice is far indeed from spurring affection so much as 
this gentle sympathy of tenderness. The smartness of 
a coquette too clearly marks opposition ; however transient 
it is displeasing; but this intimate compréhension shows a 
perfect fusion of soûls. The hapless Emilio was touched 
by the unspoken divination which led the Duchess to pity 
a fault unknown to her. 

Massimilla Doni 279 

Massimilla, feeling that her strength lay in the absence 
of any sensual side to her love, could allow herself to be 
expansive; she boldly and confidently poured out her 
angelic spirit, she stripped it bare, just as during that dia- 
bolical night, la Tinti had displayed the soft lines of her 
body, and her firm, elastic flesh. In Emilio's eyes there 
was as it were a conflict between the saintly love of this 
white soûl and that of the véhément and muscular 

The day was spent in long looks foUowing on deep 
méditations. Each of them gauged the depths of tender 
feeling, and found it bottomless ; a conviction that brought 
fond words to their lips. Modesty, the goddess who in a 
moment of forgetfulness with Love, was the mother of 
Coquettishness, need not hâve put her hand before her 
face as she looked at thèse lovers. As a crowning joy, an 
orgy of happiness, Massimilla pillowed Emilio's head in 
her arms, and now and then ventured to press her lips 
to his ; but only as a bird dips its beak into the clear 
waters of a spring, looking round lest it should be seen. 
Their fancy worked upon this kiss, as a composer develops 
a subject by the endless resources of music, and it produced 
in them such tumultuous and vibrating echoes as fevered 
their blood. 

The Idea must always be stronger than the Fact, other- 
wise désire would be less perfect than satisfaction, and it 
is in fact the stronger, — it gives birth to wit. And, in- 
deed, they were perfectly happy ; for enjoyment must 
always take something ofF happiness. Married in heaven 
alone, thèse two lovers admired each other in their purest 
aspect, — that of two soûls incandescent, and united in 
celestial light, radiant to the eyes that faith has touched ; 
and, above ail, filled with the rapture which the brush of 
a Raphaël, a Titian, a Murillo, has depicted, and which 
those who hâve ever known it, taste again as they gaze at 
those paintings. Do not such peerless spirits scorn the 

28o Massimilla Doni 

coarser joys lavished by the Sicilian singer — the material 
expression of that angelic union ? 

Thèse noble thoughts were in the Prince's mind as he 
reposed in heavenly calm on Massimilla's cool, soft, white 
bosom, under the gentle radiance of her eyes veiled by 
long, bright lashes ; and he gave himself up to this dream 
of an idéal orgy. At such a moment, Aiassimilla was as 
one of the Virgin visions seen in dreams, which vanish at 
cock-crow, but vi^hom we recognise when we find them 
again in their realm of glory, — in the works of some 
great painters of Heaven. 

In the evening the lovers went to the théâtre. This 
is the way of Italian life : love in the morning ; music in 
the evening ; the night for sleep. How far préférable is 
this existence to that of a country where every one ex- 
pends his lungs and strength in politics, vvithout contrib- 
uting any more, single-handed, to the progress of affairs 
than a grain of sand can make a cloud of dust. Liberty, 
in those strange lands, consists in the right to squabble 
over public concerns, to take care of oneself, to waste 
time in patriotic undertakings each more futile than the 
last, inasmuch as they ail weaken that noble, holy self-con- 
cern which is the parent of ail great human achievement. 
At Venice, on the contrary, love and its myriad ties, the 
sweet business of real happiness, fills up ail the time. 

In that country, love is so much a matter of course 
that the Duchess was regarded as a wonderj for, in spite 
of her violent attachment to Emilio, everybody was con- 
fident of her immaculate purity. And women gave their 
sincère pity to the poor young man, who was regarded as 
a victim to the virtue of his lady-love. At the same time, 
no one cared to blâme the Duchess, for in Italy religion 
is a power as much respected as love. 

Evening after evening Massimilla's box was the first 
object of every opera-glass, and each woman would say to 
her lover, as she studied the Duchess and her adorer : — 

Massimilla Doni 281 

*■ How far hâve they got ? ' 

The lover would examine Emilio, seeking some évidence 
of success ; would find no expression but that of a pure 
and dejected passion. And throughout the house, as they 
visited from box to box, the men would say to the ladies : — 

' La Cataneo is not yet Emilio's.' 

' She is unwise,' said the old women. ' She will tire 
him eut.' 

'■Forsef (Perhaps) the young wives would reply, with 
the solemn accent that Italians can infuse into that great 
Word — the answer to many questions hère below. 

Some women were indignant, thought the whole thing 
ill-judged, and declared that it was a misapprehension of 
religion to allow it to smother love. 

' My dear, love that poor Emilio,' said the Signora Vul- 
pato to Massimilla, as they met on the stairs in going out. 

' I do love him with ail my might,' replied the Duchess. 

' Then why does not he look happy ? ' 

Massimilla's reply was a little shrug of her shoulders. 

We in France — France as the growing mania for Eng- 
lish proprieties has made it — can form no idea of the seri- 
ous interest taken in this afFair by Venetian society. 

Vendramini alone knew Emilio's secret, which was care- 
fully kept between two men who had, for private pleasure, 
combined their coats of arms with the motto Non amici, 

The opening night of the opéra season is an event at 
Venice, as in every capital in Italy. The Fenice was 

The five hours of the night that are spent at the théâtre 
fill so important a place in Italian life that it is well to give 
an account of the customs that hâve arisen from this man- 
ner of spending time. 

The boxes in Italy are unlike those of any other country, 
inasmuch as that elsewhere the women go to be seen, and 

282 Massimilla Doni 

that Italian ladies do not care to make a show of them- 
selves. Each box is long and narrow, sloping at an angle 
to the front and to the passage behind. On each side is a 
sofa, and at the end stand two arm-chairs, one for the mis- 
tress of the box, and the other for a lady friend when she 
brings one, which she rarely does. Each lady is in fact too 
much engaged in her own box to call on others, or to wish 
to see them ; also no one cares to introduce a rival. An 
Italian woman almost always reigns alone in her box ; the 
mothers are not the slaves of their daughters, the daughters 
hâve no mother on their hands ; thus there are no children, 
no relations to watch and censure and bore, or eut into a 

In front every box is draped in the same way, with the 
same silk : from the cornice hang curtains, also ail to match ; 
and thèse remain draw^n when the family to whom the box 
belongs is in mourning. With very few exceptions, and 
those only at Milan, there is no light inside the box ; they 
are illuminated only from the stage, and from a not very 
brilliant hanging lustre which, in spite of protests, has been 
introduced into the house in some towns ; still, screened by 
the curtains, they are never very light, and their arrange- 
ment leaves the back of the box so dark that it is very 
difficult to see what is going on. 

The boxes, large enough to accommodate eight or ten 
persons, are decorated with handsome silks, the ceilings 
are painted and ornamented in light and pleasing colours ; 
the woodwork is gilt. Ices and sorbets are served there, 
and sweetmeats ; for only the plebeian classes ever hâve a 
serious meal. Each box is freehold property, and of con- 
sidérable value ; some are estimated at as much as thirty 
thousand lire; the Litta family at Milan own three adjoin- 
ing. Thèse facts sufficiently indicate the importance at- 
tributed to this incident of fashionable life. 

Conversation reigns suprême in this little apartment, which 
Stendhal, one of the most ingenious of modem writers, and a 

Massimilla Doni 283 

keen student of Italian manners, has called a boudoir with 
a window opening on to a pit. The music and the specta- 
cle are in fact purely accessory j the real interest of the 
evening is in the social meeting there, the ail-important 
trivialities of love that are discussed, the assignations held, 
the anecdotes and gossip that creep in. The théâtre is an 
inexpensive meeting-place for a whole society which is 
content and amused with studying itself. 

The men who are admitted take their seats on one of 
the sofas, in the order of their arrivai. The first comer 
naturally is next to the mistress of the box, but when 
both seats are full, if another visitor cornes in, the one 
who has sat longest rises, takes his leave, and départs. 
Ail move up one place, and so each in turn is next the 

This futile gossip, or serious coUoquy, thèse élégant 
trivialities of Italian life, inevitably imply some gênerai in- 
timacy. The lady may be in full dress or not, as she 
pleases. She is so completely at home that a stranger who 
has been received in her box may call on her next day at 
her résidence. The foreign visitor cannot at first under- 
stand this life of idle wit, this dolce far niente on a back- 
ground of music Only long custom and keen observation 
can ever reveal to a foreigner the meaning of Italian life, 
which is like the free sky of the south, and where a rich 
man will not endure a cloud. A man of rank cares little 
about the m.anagement of his fortune ; he leaves the détails 
to his stewards {ragïonatï\ who rob and ruin him. He has 
no instinct for politics, and they would presently bore him ; 
he lives exclusively for passion, which fills up ail his time ; 
hence the necessity felt by the lady and her lover for being 
constantly together, either to charm or to keep each other ; 
for the great feature of such a life is the lover, who for 
five hours is kept under the eye of a woman who has had 
him at her feet ail day. Thus Italian habits allow of per- 
pétuai satisfaction, and necessitate a constant study of the 

284 Massimilla Doni 

means fitted to insure it, though hidden under apparent 

It is a beautiful life, but a reckless one, and in no coun- 
try in the world are men so often found worn-out, 

The Duchess's box was on the pit tier — pepiano^ as it is 
called in Venice; she always sat where the light from the 
stage fell on her face, so that her handsome head, softly 
illuminated, stood out against the dark background. The 
Florentine attracted every gaze by her broad, high brow, 
as white as snow, crowned with plaits of black hair that 
gave her a really royal look ; by the refinement of her 
features, resembling the noble tenderness of Andréa del 
Sarto's heads ; by the outline of her face, the setting of 
her eyes ; and by those velvet eyes themselves, which spoke 
of the rapture of a woman dreaming of happiness, still pure 
though loving, at once attractive and dignified. 

Instead of Mosé^ in which la Tinti was to hâve appeared 
with Genovese, // Barbiere was given, and the ténor was to 
sing without the celebrated prima donna. The manager 
announced that he had been obliged to change the opéra in 
conséquence of la Tinti's being ill ; and the Duke was not 
to be seen in the théâtre. 

Was this a clever trick on the part of the management, 
to secure two full houses by bringing out Genovese and 
Tinti separately, or was Clarina's indisposition genuine ? 
While this was open to discussion by others, Emilio might 
be better informed ; and though the announcement caused 
him some remorse, as he remembered the singer's beauty 
and véhémence, her absence and the Duke's put both the 
Prince and the Duchess very much at their ease. 

And Genovese sang in such a way as to drive out ail 
memories of a night of illicit love, and to prolong the 
heavenly joys of this blissful day. Happy to be alone to 
receive the applause of the house, the ténor did his best 
with the powers which hâve since achieved European famé. 
Genovese, then but three and twenty, born at Bergamo, 

Massimilla Doni 285 

a pupil of Veluti's and devoted to his art, a fine man, 
good-looking, clever in apprehcnding the spirit of a part, 
was already developing into the great artist destined to win 
famé and fortune. He had a wild success, — a phrase 
which is literally exact only in Italy, where the applause 
of the house is absolutely frenzied when a singer procures 
it enjoyment. 

Some of the Prince's friends came to congratulate him 
on coming into his title, and to discuss the news. Only 
last evening la Tinti, talcen by the Duke to the Vulpatos', 
had sung there, apparently in health as sound as her voice 
was fine ; hence her sudden indisposition gave rise to much 
comment. It was rumoured at the Café Florian that 
Genovese was desperately in love with Clarina ; that she 
was only anxious to avoid his déclarations, and that the 
manager had tried in vain to induce her to appear with 
him. The Austrian General, on the other hand, asserted 
that it was the Duke who was ill, that the prima donna 
was nursing him, and that Genovese had been commanded 
to make amends to the public. 

The Duchess owed this visit from the Austrian General 
to the fact that a French physician had come to Venice 
whom the General wished to introduce to her. The 
Prince, seeing Vendramin wandering about the parterre^ 
went out for a few minutes of confidential talk with his 
friend, whom he had not seen for three months ; and as 
they walked round the gangway which divides the seats in 
the pit from the lowest tier of boxes, he had an opportunity 
of observing Massimilla's réception of the foreigner. 

' Who is that Frenchman ? ' asked the Prince. 

' A physician sent for by Cataneo, who wants to know 
how long he is likely to live,' said Vendramin. ' The 
Frenchman is waiting for Malfatti, with whom he is to 
hold a consultation.' 

Like every Italian woman who is in love, the Duchess 
kept her eyes fixed on Emilio ; for in that land a woman 

286 Massimilla Doni 

is so wholly wrapt up in her lover that it is difEcult to 
detect an expressive glance directed at anybody else. 

' Caro,' said the Prince to his friend, ' remember I slept 
at your house last night.' 

' Hâve you triumphed ? ' said Vendramin, putting his 
arm round Emilio's waist. 

* No ; but I hope I may some day be happy with Massimilla.' 

' Well,' replied Marco, ' then you will be the most 
envied man on earth. The Duchess is the most perfect 
woman in Italy. To me, seeing things as I do through 
the dazzling médium of opium, she seems the very highest 
expression of art; for nature, without knowing it, bas made 
her a Raphaël picture. Your passion gives no umbrage to 
Cataneo, w^ho bas handed over to me a thousand crowns, 
which I am to give to you.' 

' Well,' added Emilio, ' whatever you may hear said, I 
sleep every night at your house. Corne, for every min- 
ute spent away from her, when I might be with her, is 

Emilio took his seat at the back of the box and remained 
there in silence, listening to the Duchess, enchanted by her 
wit and beauty. It was for him, and not out of vanity, 
that Massimilla lavished the charms of her conversation 
bright with Italian wit, in which sarcasm lashed things but 
not persons, laughter attacked nothing that was not laugh- 
able, mère trifles were seasoned with Attic sait. 

Anywhere else she might bave been tiresome. The 
Italians, an eminently intelligent race, hâve no fancy for 
displaying their talents where they are not in demand ; 
their chat is perfectly simple and efFortless, it never makes 
play, as in France, under the lead of a fencing master, each 
one flourishing his foil, or, if he has nothing to say, sitting 

Conversation sparkles with a délicate and subtle satire 
that plays gracefully with familiar facts ; and instead of a 
compromising epigram an Italian has a glance or a smile of 

Massimilla Doni 287 

unutterable meaning. They think — and they are right — 
that to be expected to understand ideas when they only 
seek enjoyment, is a bore. 

Indeed, la Vulpato had said to Massimilla : — 

' If vou loved him, you would not talk so well.' 

Emiiio took no part in the conversation ; he listened and 
gazed. This reserve might bave led foreigners to suppose 
that the Prince was a man of no intelligence, — their 
impression very commonly of an Italian in love, — whereas 
he was simply a lover up to bis ears in rapture. Vendra- 
min sat down by Emiiio, opposite the Frenchman, wbo, as 
the stranger, occupied the corner facing the Duchess. 

' Is that gentleman drunk?' said the physician in an 
undertone to Massimilla, after looking at Vendramin. 

' Yes,' replied she, simply. 

In that land of passion, each passion bears its excuse in 
itself, and gracious indulgence is shown to every form of 
error. The Duchess sighed deeply, and an expression of 
suppressed pain passed over her features. 

' You will see strange things in our country. Monsieur,' 
she went on. ' Vendramin lives on opium, as this one 
lives on love, and that one buries himself in learning; 
most young men bave a passion for a dancer, as older men 
are miserly. We ail create some happiness or some mad- 
ness for ourselves,' 

' Because you ail want to divert your minds from some 
fixed idea, for vv^hich a révolution would be a radical cure,' 
replied the physician. 'The Genoese regrets bis republic, 
the Milanese pines for bis independence, the Piemontese 
longs for a constitutional government, the Romagna cries 
for liberty ' 

' Of which it knows nothing,' interrupted the Duchess. 
' Alas ! there are men in Italy so stupid as to long for your 
idiotie Charter, which destroys the influence of woman. 
Most of my fellow-countrywomen must need read your 
French books — useless rhodomontade ' 

288 Massimilla Doni 

' Useless ! ' cried the Frenchman. 

' Why, Monsieur,' the Duchess went on, ' what can you 
find in a book that is better than what we hâve in our 
hearts ? Italy is mad.' 

' I cannot see that a people is mad because it wishes to 
be its own master,' said the physician. 

' Good Heavens ! ' exclaimed the Duchess, eagerly, ' does 
not that mean paying with a great deal of bloodshed for the 
right of quarrelling, as you do, over crazy ideas ? ' 

' Then you approve of despotism ? ' said the physician. 

' Why should I not approve of a System of government 
which, by depriving us of books and odious politics, leaves 
men entirely to us ? ' 

' I had thought that the Itahans w^ere more patriotic,' 
said the Frenchman. 

Massimilla laughed so slyly that her interlocutor could 
not distinguish mockery from serious meaning, nor her real 
opinion from ironical criticism. 

' Then you are not a libéral ? ' said he. 

' Heaven préserve me ! ' said she. ' I can imagine nothing 
in worse taste than such opinions in a woman, Could you 
love a w^oman whose heart was occupied by ail mankind ? ' 

' Those who love are naturally aristocrats,' the Austrian 
General observed, with a smile. 

'■ As I came into the théâtre,' the Frenchman observed, 
' you were the first person I saw ; and I remarked to his 
Excellency that if there was a woman who could personify 
a nation it was you. But I grieve to discover that, though 
you represent its divine beauty, you hâve not the constitu- 
tional spirit.' 

'Are you not bound,' said the Duchess, pointing to the 
ballet now being danced, ' to find ail our dancers détestable 
and our singers atrocious ? Paris and London rob us of ail 
our leading stars. Paris passes judgment on them, and 
London pays them. Genovese and la Tinti will not be 
left to us for six months ' 

Massimilla Donî 289 

At this juncture, the Austrian left the box. Vendramin, 
the Prince, and the two other Italians exchanged a look 
and a smile, glancing at the French physician. He, for a 
moment, felt doubtful of himself, — a rare thing in a French- 
man, — fancying he had said or done something incongru- 
ous ; but the riddle was immediately solved. 

'Do you think it would be judicious,' said Emilio, * if 
we spoke our mind in the présence of our masters ? ' 

' You are in a land of slaves,' said the Duchess, in a tone 
and with a droop of the head which gave her at once the 
look for which the physician had sought in vain. ' Ven- 
dramin,' she went on, speaking so that only the stranger 
could hear her, ' took to smoking opium, a villainous idea 
suggested to him by an Englishman who, for other reasons 
than his, craved an easy death — not death as men see it in 
the form of a skeleton, but death draped with the frippery 
you in France call a flag — a maiden form crowned with 
flowers or laurels ; she appears in a cloud of gunpowder 
borne on the flight of a cannon-ball — or else stretched on 
a bed between two courtesans ; or again, she rises in the 
steam of a bowl of punch, or the dazzling vapour of a 
diamond — but a diamond in the form of carbon. 

' Whenever Vendramin chooses, for three Austrian lire, 
he can be a Venetian Captain, he can sail in the galleys of 
the Republic, and conquer the gilded dômes of Constanti- 
nople. Then he can lounge on the divans in the Seraglio 
among the Sultan's wives, while the Grand Signor himself 
is the slave of the Venetian conqueror. He returns to 
restore his palazzo with the spoils of the Ottoman Empire. 
He can quit the women of the East for the doubly masked 
intrigues of his beloved Venetians, and fancy that he 
dreads the jealousy which has ceased to exist. 

' f or three zwanziger he can transport himself into the 

Council of Ten, can wield there terrible power, and leave 

the Doges' Palace to sleep under the watch of a pair of 

flashing eyes, or to climb a balcony from which a fair hand 


290 Massimilla Doni 

has hung a silken ladder. He can love a woman to whom 
opium lends such poetic grâce as we women of flesh and 
blood could never show. 

' Presently he turns over, and he is face to face with the 
dreadful frown of the senator, who holds a dagger. He 
hears the blade plunged into his mistress's heart. She dies 
smiling on him ; for she has saved him, 

' And she is a happy woman ! ' added the Duchess, 
looking at Emilio. 

' He escapes and Aies to command the Dalmatians, to 
conquer the Illyrian coast for his beloved Venice. His 
glory wins him forgiveness, and he enjoys a life of domes- 
tic happiness, — a home, a winter evening, a young wife, 
and charming children, who pray to San Marco under the 
care of an old nurse. Yes, for three francs' worth of 
opium he furnishes our empty arsenal, he watches convoys 
of merchandise coming in, going to the four quarters of the 
world. The forces of modem industry no longer reign in 
London, but in his own Venice, where the hanging gardens 
of Semiramis, the Temple of Jérusalem, the marvels of 
Rome, live once more. He adds to the glories of the 
middle âges by the labours of steam, by new masterpieces 
of art under the protection of Venice, who protected it of 
old. Monuments and nations crowd into his little brain ; 
there is room for them ail. Empires and cities and révo- 
lutions come and vanish in the course of a few hours, 
while Venice alone expands and lives ; for the Venice of 
his dreams is the empress of the seas. She has two millions 
of inhabitants, the sceptre of Italy, the mastery of the 
Mediterranean and the Indies ! ' 

' What an opéra is the brain of man ! ' What an un- 
fathomed abyss ! — even to those who, like Gall, hâve 
mapped it out,' cried the physician. 

* Dear Duchess,' said Vendramin, ' do not omit the last 
service that my elixir will do me. After hearing ravishing 
voices and imbibing music through every pore, after expe- 

Massimilla Doni 291 

riencing the keenest pleasures and the fiercest delights of 
Mahomet's paradise, I see none but the most terrible 
images. I hâve visions of my beloved Venice full of 
children's faces, distorted, like those of the dying ; of 
women covered with dreadful wounds, torn and wailing; 
of men mangled and crushed by the copper sides of crash- 
ino; vessels. I begin to see Venice as she is, shrouded in 
crape, stripped, robbed, destitute. Pale phantoms wander 
through her streets ! 

' Already the Austrian soldiers are grinning over me, 
already my visionary Hfe is drifting into real life ; whereas 
six months ago real life was the bad dream, and the life 
of opium held love and bliss, important affairs and political 
interests. Alas ! To my grief, I see the dawn over my 
tomb, where truth and falsehood mingle in a dubious light, 
which is neither day nor darkness, but partakes of both.' 

' So you see that in this head there is too much patriot- 
ism,' said the Prince, laying his hand on the thick black 
curls that fell on Vendramin's brow. 

'Oh, if he loves us he will give up his dreadful opium ! ' 
said Massimilla. 

' I will cure your friend,' said the Frenchman. 

' Achieve that, and we shall love you,' said the Duchess. 
' But if on your return to France you do not calumniate 
us, we shall love you even better. The hapless Italians 
are too much crushed by foreign dominion to be fairly 
judged — for we hâve known yours,' she added, with a 

' It was more generous than Austria's,' said the physician, 

' Austria squeezes and gives us nothing back, and you 
squeezed to enlarge and beautify our towns ; you stimu- 
lated us by giving us an army. You thought you could 
keep Italy, and they expect to lose it — there lies the 

*■ The Austrians provide us with a sort of ease that is as 

292 Massimilla Doni 

stultifying and heavy as themselves, while you overwhelmed 
us by your devouring energy. But whether we die of 
tonics or of narcotics, what does it matter ? It is death ail 
the same, Monsieur le docteur.' 

' Unhappy Italy ! In my eyes she is like a beautiful 
woman whom France ought to protect by making her his 
mistress,' exclaimed the Frenchman. 

' But you could not love us as we wish to be loved,' said 
the Duchess, smiling. ' We want to be free. But the 
liberty I crave is not your ignoble and middle-class liberal- 
ism, which would kill ail art. I ask,' said she, in a tone 
that thrilled through the box, — ' that is to say, I would 
ask, — that each Italian republic should be resuscitated, 
with its nobles, its citizens, its spécial privilèges for each 
caste. I would hâve the old aristocratie republics once 
more with their intestine warfare and rivalry that gave 
birth to the noblest works of art, that created politics, that 
raised up the great princely houses. By extending the 
action of one government over a vast expanse of country it 
is frittered down. The Italian republics were the glory of 
Europe in the middle âges. Why has Italy succumbed 
when the Swiss, who were her porters, hâve triumphed ? ' 

' The Swiss republics,' said the doctor, ' were worthy 
housewives, busy with their own little concerns, and neither 
having any cause for envying another. Your republics 
were haughty queens, preferring to sell themselves rather 
than bow to a neighbour; they fell too low ever to rise 
again. The Guelphs are triumphant.' 

' Do not pity us too much,' said the Duchess, in a voice 
that made the two friends start. 'We are still suprême. 
Even in the depths of her misfortune Italy governs through 
the choicer spirits that abound in her cities. 

' Unfortunately the greater number of her geniuses learn 
to understand life so quickly that they lie sunk in poverty- 
stricken pleasure. As for those who are willing to play the 
melancholy game for immortality, they know how to get 

Massimilla Doni 293 

at your gold and to secure your praises. Aye, in this land 
— pitied for its fallen state by travelled simpletons and 
hypocritical poets, while its character is traduced by poli- 
ticians — in this land, which appears so languid, powerless, 
and ruinous, worn-out rather than old, there are puissant 
brains in every branch of life, genius throwing out vigorous 
shoots as an old vine-stock throws out canes productive of 
delicious fruit. This race of ancient rulers still gives birth 
to kings — Lagrange, Volta, Rasori, Canova, Rossini, Bar- 
tolini, Galvani, Vigano, Beccaria, Cicognara, Corvetto. 
Thèse Italians are masters of the scientific peaks on which 
they stand, or of the arts to which they dévote themselves. 
To say nothing of the singers and exécutants who capti- 
vate Europe by their amazing perfection : Taglioni, Paga- 
nini, and the rest. Italy still rules the world which will 
always corne to worship her. 

' Go to Florian's to-night ; you will find in Capraja 
one of our cleverest men, but in love with obscurity. No 
one but the Duke, my master, understands music so thor- 
oughly as he does ; indeed he is known hère as // Fanatico* 

After sitting a few minutes listening to the eager war 
of words between the physician and the Duchess, who 
showed much ingenious éloquence, the Italians, one by 
one, took leave, and went off to tell the news in every 
box, that la Cataneo, who was regarded as a woman of 
great wit and spirit, had, on the question of Italy, defeated 
a famous French doctor. This was the talk of the 

As soon as the Frenchman found himself alone with 
the Duchess and the Prince, he understood that they were 
to be left together, and took leave. Massimilla bowed 
with a bend of the neck that placed him at such a distance 
that this salute might hâve secured her the man's hatred, 
if he could hâve ignored the charm of her éloquence and 

Thus at the end of the opéra, Emilio and Massimilla 

294 Massimilla Doni 

were alone, and holding hands they listened together to the 
duet that finishes // Barbiere. 

' There is nothing but music to express love,' said the 
Duchess, moved by that song as of two rapturous night- 

A tear twinkled in Emilio's eye ; Massimilla, sublime 
in such beauty as beams in Raphael's Saint-Cecilia, pressed 
his hand, their knees touched, there was, as it seemed, the 
blossom of a kiss on her lips. The Prince saw on her 
blushing face a glow of joy like that which on a summer's 
day shines down on the golden harvest ; his heart seemed 
bursting with the tide of blood that rushed to it. He 
fancied he could hear an angelic chorus of voices, and he 
would hâve given his life to feel the fire of passion which 
at this hour last night had filled him for the odious 
Clarina ; but he was at the moment hardly conscious of 
having a body. 

Massimilla, much distressed, ascribed this tear, in her 
guilelessness, to the remark she had made as to Genovese's 

' But, Carino^ said she in Emilio's ear, ' are not you as 
far better than every expression of love, as cause is supe- 
rior to efFect ? ' 

After handing the Duchess to her gondola, Emilio 
waited for Vendramin to go to Florian's. 

The Café Florian at Venice is a quite undefinable insti- 
tution. Merchants transact their business there, and law- 
yers meet to talk over their most difficult cases. Florian's 
is at once an Exchange, a green-room, a newspaper office, 
a club, a confessional, — and it is so well adapted to the 
needs of the place that some Venetian women never know 
what their husband's business may be, for, if they hâve 
a letter to write, they go to write it there. 

Spies, of course, abound at Florian's ; but their présence 
only sharpens Venetian wits, which may hère exercise the 

Massimilla Doni 295 

discrétion once so famous. A great many persons spend 
the whole day at Florian's ; in fact, to some men Florian's 
is so much a matter of necessity, that between the acts 
of an opéra they leave the ladies in their boxes and take 
a turn to hear what is going on there. 

While the two friends were walking in the narrow 
streets of the Merceria they did not speak, for there were 
too many people ; but as they turned into the Piazza di 
San Marco, the Prince said : — 

' Do not go at once to the café. Let us walk about ; 
I want to talk to you.' 

He related his adventure with Clarina and explained 
his position. To Vendramin Emilio's despair seemed so 
nearly allied to madness that he promised to cure him 
completely if only he would give him carte blanche to deal 
with Massimilla. This ray of hope came just in time to 
save Emilio from drowning himself that night ; for, indeed, 
as he remembered the singer, he felt a horrible wish to go 
back to her. 

The two friends then went to an inner room at Florian's, 
where they listened to the conversation of some of the 
superior men of the town, who discoursed the subjects of 
the day. The most interesting of thèse were, in the first 
place, the eccentricities of Lord Byron, of whom the Ve- 
netians made great sport ; then Cataneo's attachment for 
la Tinti, for which no reason could be assigned after twenty 
différent causes had been suggested ; then Genovese's dé- 
but ; finally, the tilting match between the Duchess and 
the French doctor. Just as the discussion had become 
vehemently musical, Duke Cataneo made his appearance. 
He bowed very courteously to Emilio, which seemed so 
natural that no one noticed it, and Emilio bowed gravely 
in return. Cataneo looked round to see if there was any- 
body he knew, recognised Vendramin and greeted him, 
bowed to his banker, a rich patrician, and finally to the 
man who happened to be speaking, — a celebrated musical 

296 Massimilla Doni 

fanatic, a friend of the Comtessa Albrizzi. Like some 
others who frequented Florian's, his mode of life was abso- 
lutely unknown, so carefully did he conceal it. Nothing 
was known about him but what he chose to tell. 

This was Capraja, the nobleman whom the Duchess 
had mentioned to the French doctor. This Venetian was 
one of a class of dreamers whose powerful minds divine 
everything. He was an eccentric theorist, and cared no 
more for celebrity than for a broken pipe. 

His life was in accordance with his ideas. Capraja 
made his appearance at about ten every morning under 
the Procuratie^ without any one knowing whence he came. 
He lounged about Venice, smoking cigars. He regularly 
went to the Fenice, sitting in the pit-stalls, and between 
the acts went round to Florian's, where he took three or 
four cups of coffee a day j and he ended the evening at 
the café, never leaving it till about two in the morning. 
Twelve hundred francs a year paid ail his expenses ; he 
ate but one meal a day at an eating-house in the Merceria, 
where the cook had his dinner ready for him at a fixed 
hour, on a little table at the back of the shop ; the pastry- 
cook's daughter herself prepared his stuffed oysters, pro- 
vided him with cigars, and took care of his money. By 
his advice, this girl, though she was very handsome, would 
never countenance a lover, lived very steadily, and still 
wore the old Venetian costume. This purely-bred Vene- 
tian girl was twelve years old when Capraja first took an 
interest in her, and six and twenty when he died. She was 
very fond of him, though he had never even kissed her 
hand or her brow, and she knew nothing whatever of the 
poor old nobleman's intentions with regard to her. The 
girl had at last as complète control of the old gentleman 
as a mother has of her child ; she would tell him when 
he wanted clean linen ; next day he would come without 
a shirt, and she would give him a clean one to put on in 
the morning. 

Massimilla Doni 297 

He never looked at a woman either in the théâtre or 
out walking. Though he was the descendant of an old 
patrician family, he never thought his rank worth men- 
tioning. But at night, after twelve, he awoke from his 
apathy, talked, and showed that he had seen and heard 
everything. This peaceful Diogenes, quite incapable of 
explaining his tenets, half a Turk, half a Venetian, was 
thick-set, short, and fat ; he had a Doge's sharp nose, an 
inquisitive, satirical eye, and a discreet though smiling 

When he died, it became known that he had lived in a 
little den near San Benedetto. He had two milHon francs 
invested in the funds of various countries of Europe, and 
had left the interest untouched ever since he had first 
bought the securities in 1814, so the sum was now enor- 
mous, alike from the increased value of the capital and 
the accumulated interest. AU this money was left to the 
pastry-cook's daughter. 

' Genovese,' he was saying, ' will do wonders. Whether 
he really understands the great end of music, or acts only 
on instinct, I know not ; but he is the first singer who 
ever satisfied me. I shall not die without hearing a 
cadenza executed as I hâve heard them in my dreams, 
waking with a feeling as though the sounds were floating 
in the air. The clear cadenza is the highest achievement 
of art ; it is the arabesque, decorating the finest room in 
the house ; a shade too little and it is nothing, a touch too 
much and ail is confusion. Its task is to awake in the 
soûl a thousand dormant ideas ; it Aies up, and sweeps 
through space, scattering seeds in the air to be taken in by 
our ears and blossom in our heart. Believe me, in paint- 
ing his Saint-Cecilia, Raphaël gave the préférence to music 
over poetry. And he was right ; music appeals to the 
heart, whereas writing is addressed to the intellect ; it com- 
municates ideas directly, like a perfume. The singer's 
voice impinges not on the mind, not on the memory of 

298 Massimilla Doni 

happiness, but on the first principle of thought; it stîrs the 
éléments of sensation. 

' It is a grievous thing that the populace should hâve 
compelled musicians to adapt their expression to words, to 
factitious émotions ; but then they were not otherwise in- 
telligible to the vulgar. Thus the cadenza is the only thing 
left to the lovers of pure music, the devotees of unfettered 
art. To-night, as I listened to that last cavatina^ I felt as 
if I were beckoned by a fair créature whose look alone had 
made me young again. The enchantress placed a crown 
on my brow, and led me to the ivory door through which 
we pass to the mysterious land of day-dreams. I owe it to 
Genovese that I escaped for a few minutes from this old 
husk — minutes, short no doubt by the clock, but very 
long by the record of sensation. For a brief spring-time, 
scented with roses, I was young again — and beloved ! ' 

' But you are mistaken, caro Capraja,' said the Duke. 
' There is in music an efFect yet more magical than that 
of the caden-za.'' 

' What is that ? ' asked Capraja. 

'The unison of two voices, or of a voice and a violin, 
— the instrument which has tones most nearly resembling 
those of the human voice,' replied Cataneo. ' This per- 
fect concord bears us on to the very heart of life, on the 
tide of éléments which can resuscitate rapture and carry 
man up to the centre of the luminous sphère where his 
mind can command the whole universe. You still need 
a thema^ Capraja, but the pure élément is enough for me. 
You need that the current should flow through the myriad 
canals of the machine to fall in dazzling cascades, while 
I am content with the pure tranquil pool. My eye gazes 
across a lake without a ripple. I can embrace the infinité.' 

'Speak no more, Cataneo,' said Capraja, haughtily. 
*What! Do you fail to see the fairy, who, in her swift 
rush through the sparkling atmosphère, collects and binds 
with the golden thread of harmony, the gems of melody 

Massimilla Doni 299 

she smilingly sheds on us ? Hâve you never felt the touch 
of her magie wand, as she says to Curiosity, " Awake ! " 
The divinity rises up radiant from the depths of the brain ; 
she Aies to her store of vvondcrs and fingers them lightly 
as an organist touches the keys. Suddenly, up starts Mem- 
ory, bringing us the roses of the past, divinely preserved 
and still fresh. The mistress of our youth revives, and 
strokes the young man's hair. Our heart, too full, over- 
flows ; we see the flowery banks of the torrent of love. 
Every burning bush we ever knew blazes afresh, and re- 
peats the heavenly words we once heard and understood. 
The voice rolls on ; it embraces in its rapid turns those 
fugitive horizons, and they shrink away ; they vanish, 
echpsed by newer and deeper joys — those of an unre- 
vealed future, to which the fairy points as she returns to 
the blue heaven.' 

' And you,' retorted Cataneo, ' hâve you never seen the 
direct ray of a star opening the vistas above ; hâve you 
never mounted on that beam which guides you to the sky, 
to the heart of the first causes which move the worlds ? ' 

To their hearers, the Duke and Capraja were playing a 
game of which the prémisses were unknown. 

' Genovese's voice thrills through every fibre,' said 

' And la Tinti's fires the blood,' replied the Duke. 

' What a paraphrase of happy love is that cavatina ! 
Capraja went on. ' Ah ! Rossini was young when he 
wrote that interprétation of effervescent ecstasy. My heart 
filled with renewed blood, a thousand cravings tingled in 
my veins. Never hâve sounds more angelic delivered me 
more completely from my earthly bonds ! Never did the 
fairy wave more beautiful arms, smile more invitingly, lift 
her tunic more cunningly to display an ankle, raising the 
curtain that hides my other life ! ' 

' To-morrow, my old friend,' replied Cataneo, ' you shall 
ride on the back of a dazzling, white swan, who will show 

300 Massimilla Doni 

you the loveliest land there is ; you shall see the spring- 
time as children see it. Your heart shall open to the 
radiance of a new sun ; you shall sleep on crimson silk, 
under the gaze of a Madonna; you shall feel like a happy 
lover gently kissed by a nymph whose bare feet you still 
may see, but who is about to vanish. That swan will be 
the voice of Genovese, if he can unité it to its Leda, the 
voice of Clarina. To-morrow night we are to hear Mos'e^ 
the grandest opéra produced by Italy's greatest genius.' 

Ail présent left the conversation to the Duke and Ca- 
praja, not wishing to be the victims of mystification. Only 
Vendramin and the French doctor listened to them for a 
few minutes. The opium-smoker understood thèse poetic 
flights ; he had the key of the palace where those two 
sensuous imaginations were wandering. The doctor, too, 
tried to understand, and he understood, for he was one of 
the Pléiades of genius belonging to the Paris school of 
medicine, from which a true physician cornes out as much 
a metaphysician as an accomplished analyst. 

' Do you understand them ? ' said Emilio to Vendramin, 
as they left the café at two in the morning. 

' Yes, my dear boy,' said Vendramin, taking Emilio 
home with him. ' Those two men are of the légion of un- 
earthly spirits to whom it is given hère below to escape 
from the wrappings of the flesh, who can fly on the shoul- 
ders of the queen of witchcraft up to the blue empyrean 
where the sublime marvels are wrought of the intellectual 
life ; they, by the power of art, can soar whither your 
immense love carries you, whither opium transports me. 
Then none can understand them but those who are like 

^ I, who can inspire my soûl by such base means, who 
can pack a hundred years of life into a single night, I can 
understand those lofty spirits when they talk of that glorious 
land, deemed a realm of chimeras by some who think them- 
selves wisej but the realm of reality to us whom they think 

Massimilla Doni 301 

mad. Well, the Duke and Capraja, who were acquainted 
at Naples, — where Cataneo was born, — are mad about 

' But what is that strange System that Capraja was eager 
to explain to the Duke ? Did you understand ?' 

* Yes,' replied Vendramin. ' Capraja's great friend is a 
musician from Cremona, lodging in the Capello palace, who 
has a theor)^ that sounds meet with an élément in man, 
analogous to that which produces the phenomena of light, 
and which produces ideas. According to him, man has 
within him keys acted on by sound, and corresponding to 
his nerve-centres, where ideas and sensations take their 
rise. Capraja, who regards the arts as an assemblage of 
means by which he can harmonise, in himself, ail external 
nature with another mysterious nature that he calls the 
inner life, shares ail the ideas of this instrument-maker, 
who at this moment is composing an opéra. 

' Conceive of a sublime création, wherein the marvels 
of the visible universe are reproduced with immeasurable 
grandeur, lightness, swiftness, and extension ; wherein sen- 
sation is infinité, and whither certain privileged natures, 
possessed of divine powers, are able to penetrate, and you 
will hâve some notion of the ecstatic joys of which Cataneo 
and Capraja were speaking ; both poets, each for himself 
alone. Only, in matters of the intellect, as soon as a man 
can rise above the sphère where plastic art is produced by 
a process of imitation, and enter into that transcendental 
sphère of abstractions where everything is understood as an 
elementary principle, and seen in the omnipotence of re- 
sults, that man is no longer intelligible to ordinary minds.' 

' You hâve thus explained my love for Massimilla,' said 
Emilio. ' There is in me, my friend, a force which 
awakes under the fire of her look, at her lightest touch, 
and wafts me to a world of light where effects are produced 
of which I dare not speak. It has seemed to me often 
that the délicate tissue of her skin has stamped flowers on 

302 Massimilla Doni 

mine as her hand lies on my hand. Her words play on 
those inner keys in me, of which you spoke. Désire ex- 
cites my brain, stirring that invisible world, instead of 
exciting my passive flesh ; the air seems red and sparkling, 
unknown perfumes of indescribable strength relax my 
sinews, roses wreathe my temples, and I feel as though my 
blood were escaping through opened arteries, so complète 
is my inanition.' 

' That is the effect on me of smoking opium,' replied 

* Then do you vi^ish to die ? ' cried Emilio, in alarm. 

' With Venice ! ' said Vendramin, waving his hand in 
the direction of San Marco. ' Can you see a single pin- 
nacle or spire that stands straight ? Do you not perceive 
that the sea is claiming its prey ? ' 

The Prince bent his head ; he dared no more speak to 
his friend of love. 

To know what a free country means, you must hâve 
travelled in a conquered land. 

When they reached the Palazzo Vendramin, they saw 
a gondola moored at the water-gate. The Prince put his 
arm round Vendramin and clasped him affectionately, say- 
ing : — 

' Good night to you, my dear fellow^ ! ' 

'What ! a woman ? for me, whose only love is Venice ? ' 
exclaimed Marco. 

At this instant the gondolier, who was leaning against a 
column, recognising the man he was to look out for, mur- 
mured in Emilio's ear : — 

'The Duchess, Monseigneur.' 

Emilio sprang into the gondola, where hewas seized in a 
pair of soft arms — an embrace of iron — and dragged 
down on to the cushions, where he felt the heaving bosom 
of an ardent woman. And then he was no more Emilio, 
but Clarina's lover; for his ideas and feelings were so be- 
wildering that he yielded as if stupefied by her first kiss. 

Massimilla Doni 203 

' Forgive this trick, my beloved,' said the Sicilian. ' I 
shall die if you do not corne with me.' 

And the gondola flew over the secret water. 

At half-past seven on the following evening, the specta- 
tors were again in their places in the théâtre, excepting that 
those in the pit always took their chances of where they 
might sit. Old Capraja was in Cataneo's box. 

Before the overture the Duke paid a call on the Duchess ; 
he made a point of standing behind her and leaving the 
front seat to Emilio next the Duchess. He made a few 
trivial remarks, without sarcasm or bitterness, and with as 
polite a manner as if he were visiting a stranger. 

But in spite of his efforts to seem amiable and natural, 
the Prince could not control his expression, which was 
deeply anxious. Bystanders would hâve ascribed such a 
change in his usually placid features to jealousy. The 
Duchess no doubt shared Emilio's feelings ; she looked 
gloomy and was evidently depressed. The Duke, uncom- 
fortable enough between two sulky people, took advantage 
of the French doctor's entrance to slip away. 

*• Monsieur,' said Cataneo to his physician before drop- 
ping the curtain over the entrance to the box, ' you will 
hear to-night a grand musical poem, not easy of compré- 
hension at a first hearing. But in leaving you with the 
Duchess I know that you can hâve no more compétent 
interpréter, for she is my pupil.' 

The doctor, like the Duke, was struck by the expres- 
sion stamped on the faces of the lovers, a look of pining 

* Then does an Italian opéra need a guide to it ? ' he 
asked Massimilla, with a smile. 

Recalled by this question to her duties as mistress of the 
box, the Duchess tried to chase away the clouds that dark- 
ened her brow, and replied, with eager haste, to open a con- 
versation in which she might vent her irritation : — 

304 Massimilla Doni 

' This is not so much an opéra, Monsieur,' said she, ' as 
an oratorio — a work which is in fact not uniike a most 
magnificent édifice, and I shall with pleasure be your guide. 
Believe me, it will not be too much to give ail your mind 
to our great Rossini, for you need to be at once a poet and 
a musician to appreciate the whole bearing of such a work. 

' You belong to a race whose language and genius are 
too practical for it to enter into music without an effort ; 
but France is too intellectual not to learn to love it and 
cultivate it, and to succeed in that as in everything else. 
Also, it must be acknowledged that music, as created by 
Lulli, Rameau, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Cimarosa, Paisi- 
ello, and Rossini, and as it will be carried on by the great 
geniuses of the future, is a new art, unknown to former 
générations ; they had indeed no such variety of instruments 
as we hâve now, and were unaware of the harmonies on 
which the flowers of melody now blossom as on some rich 

'So novel an art demands study in the public, study of 
a kind that may develop the feelings to which music ap- 
peals. That sentiment hardly exists as yet among you — 
a nation given up to philosophical théories, to analysis and 
discussion, and always torn by civil disturbances. Modem 
music demands perfect peace ; it is the language of loving 
and sentimental soûls, inclined to lofty emotional aspira- 

' That language, a thousand times fuller than the lan- 
guage of words, is to speech what the thought is to its 
utterance ; it arouses sensations and ideas in their primitive 
form, in that part of us where sensations and ideas hâve 
their birth, but leaves them as they are in each of us. 
That power over our inmost being is one of the grandest 
facts in music. Ail other arts présent to the mind a defi- 
nite création; those of music are indefinite — infinité. 
We are compelled to accept the ideas of the poet, the 
painter's picture, the sculptor's statue; but music each one 

Massimilla Doni 305 

can interpret at the will of his sorrow or his gladness, his 
hope or his despair. While other arts restrict our mind by 
fixing it on a predestined object, music frees it to roam over 
ail nature which it alone bas the power of expressing. You 
shall hear how I interpret Rossini's Mos'e.' 

She leaned across to the Frenchman to speak to him, 
without being overheard. 

' Moses is the liberator of an enslaved race ! ' said she. 
* Remcmber that, and you will see with what religious hope 
the whole bouse will listen to the prayer of the rescued 
Hebrews, with what a thunder of applause it will respond ! ' 

As the leader raised his bow, Emilio flung himself into 
a back seat. The Duchess pointed out the place he had 
left, for the physician to take it. But the Frenchman was 
far more curious to know what had gone wrong between 
the lovers than to enter the halls of music built up by the 
man whom ail Italy was applauding — for it was the day 
of Rossini's triumph in his own country. He was watch- 
ing the Duchess, and she was talking with a feverish ex- 
citement. She reminded him of the Niobe he had admired 
at Florence : the same dignity in woe, the same physical 
control; and yet her soûl shone through, in the warm flush 
in her cheeks ; and her eyes, where anxiety was disguised 
under a flash of pride, seemed to scorch the tears away by 
their fire. Her suppressed grief seemed calmer when she 
looked at Emilio, who never took his eyes off her ; it was 
easy to see that she was trying to mollify some fierce despair. 
The State of her feelings gave a certain loftiness to her 

Like most women when under the stress of some unusual 
agitation, she overstepped her ordinary limitations and as- 
sumed something of the Pythoness, though still remaining 
calm and beautiful ; for it was the form of her thoughts that 
was wrung with desperation, not the features of her face. 
And perhaps she wanted to shine with ail her wit to lend 
some charm to life and detain her lover from death. 

3o6 Massimilla Doni 

When the orchestra had given out the three chords in 
C major, placed at the opening by the composer to announce 
that the overture will be sung — for the real overture is 
the great movement beginning with this stern attack, and 
ending only when light appears at the command of Moses 
— the Duchess could not control a Httle spasmodic start, 
that showed how entirely the music was in accordance with 
her concealed distress. 

*■ Those three chords freeze the blood,' said she. ' They 
announce trouble. Listen attentively to this introduction ; 
the terrible lament of a nation stricken by the hand of God. 
What wailing ! The King, the Queen, their first-born 
son, ail the dignitaries of the kingdom are sighing ; they 
are wounded in their pride, in their conquests j checked in 
their avarice. Dear Rossini ! you hâve donc well to throw 
this bone to gnaw to the Tedeschi^ who declared we had no 
harmony, no science ! 

' Now you will hear the ominous melody the maestro 
has engrafted on to this profound harmonie composition, 
worthy to compare with the most elaborate structures of 
the Germans, but never fatiguing or tiresome. 

'You French, who carried through such a bloodthirsty 
révolution, who crushed your aristocracy under the paw of 
the lion mob, on the day when this oratorio is performed in 
your capital, you will understand this glorious dirge of the 
victims on whom God is avenging his chosen people. None 
but an Italian could hâve written this pregnant and inex- 
haustible thème — truly Dantesque. Do you think that 
it is nothing to hâve such a dream of vengeance, even for 
a moment ? Hândel, Sébastian Bach, ail you old German 
masters, nay, even you, great Beethoven, on your knees ! 
Hère is the queen of arts, Italy triumphant ! ' 

The Duchess had spoken while the curtain was being 
raised. And now the physician heard the sublime symphony 
with which the composer introduces the great Biblical 
drama. It is to express the sufFerings of a whole nation. 

Massimilla Doni 307 

Suffering is uniform in its expression, especially physical 
suffering. Thus, having instinctively felt, like ail men of 
genius, that hère there must be no variety of idea, the 
musician, having hit on his leading phrase, has worked it 
out in various keys, grouping the masses and the dramatis 
personae to take up the thème through modulations and 
cadences of admirable structure. In such simplicity is 

' The effect of this strain, depicting the sensations of 
night and cold in a people accustomed to live in the bright 
rays of the sun, and sung by the people and their princes, 
is most impressive. There is something relentless in that 
slow phrase of music ; it is cold and sinister, like an iron 
bar wielded by some celestial executioner, and dropping in 
regular rhythm on the limbs of ail his victims. As we hear 
it passing from C minor into G minor, returning to C and 
again to the dominant G, starting afresh and fortissimo on 
the tonic B flat, drifting into F major and back to C minor, 
and in each key in turn more ominously terrible, chill, and 
dark, we are compelled at last to enter into the impression 
intended by the composer.' 

The Frenchman was, in fact, deeply moved when ail this 
united sorrow exploded in the cry : — 

* O Nume d' Israël, 
Se brami in libertà 
Il popol tuo fedel, 
Di lui di noi pietà !* 

(O God of Israël, if thou wouldst see thy faithful people 
free, hâve mercy on them, and on us.) 

' Never was a grander synthesis composed of natural 
effects or a more perfect idéalisation of nature. In a 
great national disaster, each one for a long time bewails 
himself alone; then, from out of the mass, rises up, hère 
and there, a more emphatic and véhément cry of anguish ; 

3o8 Massimilla Doni 

finally, when the misery has fallen on ail, it bursts forth 
like a tempest, 

' As soon as they ail recognise a common grievance, the 
dull murmurs of the people become cries of impatience, 
Rossini has proceeded on this hypothesis. After the out- 
cry in C major, Pharaoh sings his grand recitative : Mano 
ultrice di un Dio (Avenging hand of God), after which the 
original subject is repeated with more véhément expression. 
Ail Egypt appeals to Moses for help.' 

The Duchess had taken advantage of the pause for the 
entrance of Moses and Aaron to give this interprétation of 
that fine introduction. 

' Let them weep!' she added passionately. 'They hâve 
done much ill. Expiate your sins, Egyptians, expiate the 
crimes of your maddened Court ! With what amazing 
skill has this great painter made use of ail the gloomy 
tones of music, of ail that is saddest on the musical pal- 
ette ! What creepy darkness ! what a mist ! Is not your 
very spirit in mourning ? Are you not convinced of the 
reality of the blackness that lies over the land ? Do you 
not feel that Nature is wrapped in the deepest shades ? 
There are no palm-trees, no Egyptian palaces, no land- 
scape. And what a healing to your soûl will the deeply 
religions strain be of the heaven-sent Healer who will stay 
this cruel plague ! How skilfully is everything wrought up 
to end in that glorious invocation of Moses to God. 

' By a learned élaboration, which Capraja could explain 
to you, this appeal to heaven is accompanied by brass 
instruments only ; it is that which gives it such a solemn, 
religions cast. And not merely is the artifice fine in its 
place ; note how fertile in resource is genius. Rossini has 
derived fresh beauty from the difficulty he himself created. 
He has the strings in reserve to express daylight when it 
succeeds to the darkness, and thus produces one of the 
greatest efFects ever achieved in music. 

' Till this inimitable genius showed the way never was 

Massimilla Doni 309 

such a resuit obtained with mère recitative. We hâve not, 
so far, had an air or a duet. The poet has relied on the 
strength of the idea, on the vividness of his imagery, and 
the realism of the declamatory passages. This scène of 
despair, this darkness that may be felt, thèse cries of an- 
guish, — the whole musical picture is as fine as your great 
Poussin's Déluge.^ 

Moses waved his staff, and it was light. 

* Hère, Monsieur, does not the music vie with the sun, 
whose splendour it has borrovi^ed, with nature, whose 
phenomena it expresses in every détail ? ' the Duchess 
went on, in an undertone. ' Art hère reaches its climax ; 
no musician can get beyond this. Do not you hear Egypt 
waking up after its long torpor ? Joy cornes in with the 
day. In what composition, ancient or modem, will you 
find so grand a passage ? The greatest gladness in con- 
trast to the deepest woe ! What exclamations ! What 
gleeful notes ! The oppressed spirit breathes again. What 
delirium in the trémolo of the orchestra ! What a noble 
tutti! This is the rejoicing of a delivered nation. Are 
you not thrilled with joy ? ' 

The physician, startled by the contrast, was, in fact, 
clapping his hands, carried away by admiration for one of 
the finest compositions of modem music. 

' Bravo la Doni ! ' said Vendramin, who had heard the 

* Now the introduction is ended,' said she. *■ You hâve 
gone through a great sensation,' she added, turning to the 
Frenchman. ' Your heart is beating ; in the depths of 
your imagination you hâve a splendid sunrise, flooding 
with light a whole country that before was cold and dark. 
Now, would you know the means by which the musician 
has worked, so as to admire him to-morrow for the secrets 
of his craft after enjoying the results to-night ? What 
do you suppose produces this effect of daylight — so 
sudden, so complicated, and so complète ? It cousists 

3IO Massimilla Doni 

of a simple chord of C, constantly relterated, varied only 
by the chord of 4-6. This reveals the magie of his 
touch. To show you the glory of light he has worked 
by the same means that he used to represent darkness and 

' This dawn in imagery is, in fact, absolutely the same 
as the natural dawn ; for light is one and the same thing 
everywhere, always alike in itself, the efFects varying only 
with the objects it falls on. Is it not so ? Well, the 
musician has taken for the fundamental basis of his music, 
for its sole motifs a simple chord in C. The sun first 
sheds its light on the mountain-tops and then in the val- 
leys. In the same way the chord is first heard on the 
treble string of the violins with boréal mildness ; it 
spreads through the orchestra, it awakes the instruments 
one by one, and flows among them. Just as light glides 
from one thing to the next, giving them colour, the music 
moves on, calling out each rill of harmony till ail flow 
together in the tutti. 

' The violins, silent until now, give the signal with their 
tender trémolo., softly agitato like the first rays of morning. 
That light, cheerful movement, which caresses the soûl, 
is cleverly supported by chords in the bass, and by a vague 
fanfare on the trumpets, restricted to their lowest notes, 
so as to give a vivid idea of the last cool shadows that 
linger in the valleys while the first warm rays touch 
the heights. Then ail the wind is gradually added to 
strengthen the gênerai harmony. The voices corne in 
with sighs of delight and surprise. At last the brass 
breaks out, the trumpets sound. Light, the source of ail 
harmony, inundates ail nature ; every musical resource is 
produced with a turbulence, a splendour, to compare with 
that of the Eastern sun. Even the triangle, with its re- 
lterated C, reminds us by its shrill accent and playful 
rhythm of the song of early birds. 

*Thus the same key, freshly treated by the master's 

Massimilla Doni 311 

hand, expresses the joy of ail nature, while it soothes the 
grief it uttered before. 

* There is the hall-mark of the great genius : Unity. 
It is the same, but différent. In one and the same phrase 
we find a thousand various feelings of woe, the misery of a 
nation. In one and the same chord we hâve ail the various 
incidents of awakening nature, every expression of the 
nation's joy. Thèse two tremendous passages are soldered 
into one by the prayer to an ever-living God, author of ail 
things, of that woe and that gladness alike. Now is not 
that introduction by itself a grand poem ? ' 

' It is, indeed,' said the Frenchman. 

*■ Next comes a quintett such as Rossini can give us. 
If he was ever justified in giving vent to that fiowery, 
voluptuous grâce for which Italian music is blamed, is it 
not in this charming movement in which each person 
expresses joy ? The enslaved people are delivered, and 
y et a passion in péril is fain to moan. Pharaoh's son loves 
a Hebrew woman, and she must leave him. What gives 
its ravishing charm to this quintett is the return to the 
homelier feelings of life after the grandiose picture of two 
stupendous and national émotions: — gênerai misery, gên- 
erai joy, expressed with the magie force stamped on them 
by divine vengeance and with the miraculous atmosphère of 
the Bible narrative. Now, was not I right ? ' added Mas- 
similla, as the noble stretto came to a close. 

* Voci di giubilo, 
D' in'orno eccheggino, 
Di pace 1' Iride 
Per noi spunto.' 

(Cries of joy sound about us. The rainbow of peace 
dawns upon us.) 

^ How ingeniously the composer has constructed this 
passage ! ' she went on, after waiting for a reply. ' He 
begins with a solo on the horn, of divine sweetness, sup- 

312 Massimilla Doni 

ported by arpeggios on the harps ; for the first voices to be 
heard in this grand concerted pièce are those of Moses and 
Aaron returning thanks to the true God. Their strain, 
soft and solemn, reverts to the sublime ideas of the invo- 
cation, and mingles, nevertheless, with the joy of the 
heathen people. This transition combines the heavenly 
and the earthly in a way which genius alone could invent, 
giving the andante of this quintett a glovv^ of colour that I 
can only compare to the light thrown by Titian on his 
Divine Persons. Did you observe the exquisite interweav- 
ing of the voices ? the clever entrances by which the com- 
poser has grouped them round the main idea given out 
by the orchestra ? the learned progressions that prépare us 
for the festal allegro? Did you not get a glimpse, as it 
were, of dancing groups, the dizzy round of a whole nation 
escaped from danger ? And w^hen the clarionet gives the 
signal for the stretto^ — '■^Voci di giuhilo^^ — so brilliant and 
gay, was not your soûl filled with the sacred pyrrhic 
joy of which David speaks in the Psalms, ascribing it to 
the hills ? ' 

* Yes, it would make a delightful dance tune,' said the 

'■ French ! French ! always French ! ' exclaimed the 
Duchess, checked in her exultant mood by this sharp thrust. 
' Yes ; you would be capable of taking that wonderful burst 
of noble and dainty rejoicing and turning it into a rigadoon. 
Sublime poetry finds no mercy in your eyes. The highest 
genius, — saints, kings, disasters, — ail that is most sacred 
must pass under the rods of caricature. And the vulgar- 
ising of great music by turning it into a dance tune is to 
caricature it. With you, wit kills soûl, as argument kills 

They ail sat in silence through the recitative of Osiride 
and Membrea, who plot to annul the order given by Pharaoh 
for the departure of the Hebrews. 

' Hâve I vexed you ? ' said the physician to the Duchess. 

Massimilla Doni 313 

' I should be in despair. Your words are like a magie 
wand. They unlock the pigeon-holes of my brain, and 
let out new ideas, vivified bv this sublime music' 

' No,' replied she, ' you hâve praised our great composer 
after your own fashion. Rossini will be a success with 
you, for the sake of his witty and sensual gifts. Let us 
hope that he may find some noble souIs, in love with the 
idéal — which must exist in your fruitful land, — to 
appreciate the sublimity, the loftiness, of such music. Ah, 
now we hâve the famous duet, between Elcia and Osiride ! ' 
she exclaimed, and she went on, taking advantage of the 
triple salvo of applause which hailed la Tinti, as she made 
her first appearance on the stage. 

* If la Tinti has fully understood the part of Elcia, you 
will hear the frenzied song of a woman torn by her love 
for her people, and her passion for one of their oppressors, 
while Osiride, full of mad adoration for his beautiful vassal, 
tries to detain her. The opéra is built up as much on that 
grand idea as on that of Pharaoh's résistance to the power 
of God and of liberty ; you must enter into it thoroughly 
or you will not understand this stupendous work. 

'■ Notwithstanding the disfavour you show to the dramas 
invented by our libretto writers, you must allow me to point 
out the skill with which this one is constructed. The an- 
tithesis required in every fine work, and eminently favour- 
able to music, is well worked out. What can be finer 
than a whole nation demanding liberty, held in bondage 
by bad faith, upheld by God, and piling marvel on marvel 
to gain freedom ? What more dramatic than the Prince's 
love for a Hebrew woman, almost justifying treason to 
the oppressor's power ? 

' And this is what is expressed in this bold and stupen- 
dous musical poem ; Rossini has stamped each nation with 
its fantastic individuality, for we hâve attributed to them 
a certain historié grandeur to which every imagination sub- 
seribes. The songs of the Hebrews, and their trust in 

314 Massimilla Doni 

God, are perpetually contrasted with Pharaoh's shrieks of 
rage and vain efforts, represented with a strong hand. 

' At this moment Osiride, thinking only of love, hopes 
to detain his mistress by the memories of their joys as 
lovers ; he wants to conquer the attractions of her feeling 
for her people. Hère, then, you will find delicious lan- 
guour, the glowing sweetness, the voluptuous suggestions 
of Oriental love, in the air " Ah ! se puoi cosi lasciarmi" 
sung by Osiride, and in Elcia's reply, " Ma perche cosi 
straziarmiP" No; two hearts in such melodious unison 
could never part,' she went on, looking at the Prince. 

' But the lovers are suddenly interrupted by the exultant 
voice of the Hebrew people in the distance, w^hich recalls 
Elcia. What a delightful and inspiriting allegro is the 
thème of this march, as the Israélites set out for the 
désert ! No one but Rossini can make wind instruments 
and trumpets say so much. And is not the art vi^hich can 
express in two phrases ail that is meant by the "native land" 
certainly nearer to heaven than the others ? This clarion- 
call always moves me so deeply that I cannot find words 
to tell you how cruel it is to an enslaved people to see 
those who are free march away ! ' 

The Duchess's eyes filled with tears as she listened to 
the grand movement, which in fact crowns the opéra. 

' Dov' è mai quel core amante^ she murmured in Italian, as 
la Tinti began the delightful aria of the stretto in which 
she implores pity for her grief. * But what is the matter ? 
The pit are dissatisfied ' 

' Genovese is braying like a stag,' replied the Prince. 

In point of fact, this first duet with la Tinti was spoilt 
by Genovese's utter breakdown. His excellent method, 
recalling that of Crescentini and Veluti, seemed to désert 
him completely. A sostenuto in the wrong place, an em- 
bellishment carried to excess, spoilt the efFect ; or again 
a loud climax with no due crescendo^ an outburst of sound 
like water tumbling through a suddenly opened sluice, 

Massimilla Doni 315 

showed complète and wilful neglect of the laws of good 

The pit was in the greatest excitement. The Venetian 
public believed there was a deliberate plot between Geno- 
vese and his friends. La Tinti was recalled and applauded 
with frenzv, while Genovese had a hint or two warning 
him of the hostile feeling of the audience. During this 
scène, highly aniusing to a Frenchman, while la Tinti was 
recalled eleven times to receive alone the frantic acclama- 
tions of the house, — Genovese, who was ail but hissed, not 
daring to offer her his hand, — the doctor made a remark to 
the Duchess as to the stretto of the duet. 

' In this place,' said he, ' Rossini ought to hâve expressed 
the deepest grief, and I find on the contrary an airy move- 
ment, a tone of ill-timed cheerfulness.' 

' You are right,' said she. ' This mistake is the resuit 
of a tyrannous custom which composers are expected to 
obey. He was thinking more of his prima donna than of 
Elcia when he wrote that stretto. But this evening, even if 
la Tinti had been more brilliant than ever, I could throw 
myself so completely into the situation, that the passage, 
lively as it is, is to me full of sadness.' 

1 he physician looked attentively from the Prince to the 
Duchess, but could not guess the reason that held them 
apart, and that made this duet seem to them so heart- 

' Now comes a magnificent thing, the scheming of 
Pharaoh against the Hebrews. The great aria " A rispet- 
tarmi apprenda " (Learn to respect me) is a triumph for 
Carthagenova, who will express superbly the offended pride 
and the duplicity of a sovereign. The Throne will speak. 
He will withdraw the concessions that hâve been made, he 
arms himself in wrath. Pharaoh rises to his feet to clutch 
the prey that is escaping. 

' Rossini never wrote anything grander in style, or 
stamped with more living and irrésistible energy. It is a 

3i6 Massimilla Doni 

consummate work, supported by an accompaniment of mar- 
vellous orchestration, as indeed is every portion of this opéra. 
The vigour of youth illumines the smallest détails.' 

The whole house applauded this noble movement, which 
was admirably rendered by the singer, and thoroughly appre- 
ciated by the Venetians. 

* In the finale^ said the Duchess, ' you hear a répétition 
of the march, expressive of the joy of deliverance and of 
faith in God, who allows his people to rush off gleefully to 
wander in the Désert ! What lungs but would be refreshed 
by the aspirations of a whole nation freed from slavery. 

* Oh, beloved and living mélodies! Glory to the great 
genius who has known how to give utterance to such feel- 
ings ! There is something essentially warlike in that march, 
proclaiming that the God of armies is on the side of thèse 
people. How full of feeling are thèse strains of thanks- 
giving ! The imagery of the Bible rises up in our mind ; 
this glorious musical icena enables us to realize one of the 
grandest dramas of that ancient and solemn world. The 
religious form given to some of the voice parts, and the 
way in which they come in, one by one, to group with 
the others, express ail we hâve ever imagined of the sacred 
marvels of that early âge of humanity. 

' And yet this fine concerted pièce is no more than a 
development of the thème of the march into ail its musical 
outcome. That thème is the inspiring élément alike for 
tlie orchestra and the voices, for the air, and for the 
brilliant instrumentation that supports it. 

' Elcia now cornes to join the crowd ; and to give shade 
to the rejoicing spirit of this number, Rossini has made her 
utter her regrets. Listen to her duettïm with Amenofi. 
Did blighted love ever express itself in lovelier song ? It 
is full of the grâce of a notturno^ of the secret grief of hope- 
less love. How sad, how sad ! The Désert will indeed 
be a désert to her ! 

' After this comes the fierce conflict of the Egyptians and 

Massimilla Doni 317 

the Hebrews. AU their joy is spoiled, their march stopped 
by the arrivai of the Egyptians. Pharaoh's edict is pro- 
claimed in a musical phrase, hollow and dread, which is the 
leading motif oî the finale; we could fancy that we hear 
the tramp of the great Egyptian army, surrounding the 
sacred phalanx of the true God, curling round it, like a 
long African serpent enveloping its prey. But how beau- 
tiful is the lament of the duped and disappointed Hebrews ! 
Though, in truth, it is more Italian than Hebrew. What 
a superb passage introduces Pharaoh's arrivai, when his 
présence brings the two leaders face to face, and ail the 
moving passions of the drama. The conflict of sentiments 
in that sublime ottetto^ where the wrath of Moses meets that 
of the two Pharaohs, is admirable. What a mediey of 
voices and of unchained furies ! 

' No grander subject was ever wrought out by a com- 
poser. The famous finale of Don Giovanni^ after ail, only 
shows us a libertine at odds with his victims, who invoke 
the vengeance of Heaven; while hère earth and its dominions 
try to defeat God. Two nations are hère face to face. 
And Rossini, having every means at his command, has 
made wonderful use of them. He has succeeded in ex- 
pressing the turmoil of a tremendous storm as a background 
to the most terrible imprécations, without making it ridicu- 
lous. He has achieved it by the use of chords repeated in 
triple time — a monotonous rhythm of gloomy musical em- 
phasis — and so persistent as to be quite overpowering. 
The horror of the Egyptians at the torrent of fire, the cries 
of vengeance from the Hebrews, needed a délicate balance 
of masses ; so note how he has made the development of 
the orchestral parts follow that of the chorus. The allegro 
assai in C minor is terrible in the midst of that déluge of 

' Confess now,' said Massimilla, at the moment when 
Moses, lifting his rod, brings down the rain of fire, and 
when the composer puts forth ail his powers in the orches- 

3i8 Massimilla Doni 

tra and on the stage, ' that no music ever more perfectiy 
expressed the idea of distress and confusion.' 

' They hâve spread to the pit,' remarked the Frenchman. 

* What is it now ? The pit is certainly in great excite- 
ment,' said the Duchess. 

In the finale^ Genovese, his eyes fixed on la Tinti, had 
launched into such preposterous flourishes, that the pit, 
indignant at this interférence with their enjoyment, were 
at a height of uproar, Nothing could be more exasperat- 
ing to Italian ears than this contrast of good and bad sing- 
ing. The manager went so far as to appear on the stage, 
to say that in reply to his remarks to his leading singer, 
Signor Genovese had replied that he knew not how or by 
what offence he had lost the countenance of the public, at 
the very moment when he was endeavouring to achieve 
perfection in his art. 

' Let him be as bad as he was yesterday — that was good 
enough for us ! ' roared Capraja, in a rage. 

This suggestion put the house into a good humour again. 

Contrary to Italian custom, the ballet was not much 
attended to. In every box the only subject of conversation 
was Genovese's strange behaviour, and the luckless man- 
ager's speech. Those who were admitted behind the 
scènes went ofF at once to enquire into the mystery of this 
performance, and it was presently rumoured that la Tinti 
had treated her colleague Genovese to a dreadful scène, in 
which she had accused the ténor of being jealous of her 
success, of having hindered it by his ridiculous behaviour, 
and even of trying to spoil her performance by acting pas- 
sionate dévotion. The lady was shedding bitter tears over 
this catastrophe. She had been hoping, she said, to charm 
her lover, who was somewhere in the house, though she 
had failed to discover him. 

Without knowing the peaceful course of daily life in 
Venice at the présent day, so devoid of incident that a 
slight altercation between two lovers, or the transient hus- 

Massimilla Doni 319 

kiness of a singer's voice becomes a subject of discussion, 
regardée! of as much importance as politics in England, it 
is impossible to conceive of the excitement in the théâtre 
and at the Café Florian. La Tinti was in love ; la Tinti 
had been hindered in her performance ; Genovese was mad 
or purposely malignant, inspired by the artist's jealousy so 
familiar to Italians ! What a mine of matter for eager 
discussion ! 

The whole pit was talking as men talk at the Bourse, 
and the resuit was such a clamour as could not fail to 
amaze a Frenchman accustomed to the quiet of the Paris 
théâtres. The boxes were in a ferment like the stir of 
swarming bées. 

One man alone remained passive in the turmoil. Emilio 
Memmi, with his back to the stage and his eyes fixed on 
Massimilla with a melancholy expression, seemed to live in 
her gaze; he had not once looked round at the prima 

' I need not ask you, caro carino^ what was the resuit of 
my negotiation,' said Vendramin to Emilio. 'Your pure 
and pious Massimilla has been supremely kind — in short, 
she has been la Tinti ? ' 

The Prince's reply was a shake of his head, full of the 
deepest melancholy. 

' Your love has not descended from the ethereal spaces 
where you soar,' said Vendramin, excited by opium. ' It 
is not yet materialised. This morning, as every day for 
six months — you felt flowers opening their scented cups 
under the dôme of your skull that had expanded to vast 
proportions. Ail your blood moved to your swelling heart 
that rose to choke your throat. There, in there,' — and he 
laid his hand on Emilio's breast, — ' you felt rapturous émo- 
tions. Massimilla's voice fell on your soûl in waves of 
light ; her touch released a thousand imprisoned joys which 
emerged from the convolutions of your brain to gather 
about you in clouds, to waft your etherealised body through 

320 Massimilla Doni 

the blue air in a purple glow far above the snowy heights, 
to where the pure love of angels dwells. The smile, the 
kisses of her lips, wrapped you in a poisoned robe which 
burnt up the last vestiges of your earthly nature. Her 
eyes were twin stars that turned you into shadowless light. 
You knelt together on the palm-branches of heaven, waiting 
for the gâtes of Paradise to be opened ; but they turned 
heavily on their hinges, and in your impatience you struck 
at them, but could not reach them. Your hand touched 
nothing but clouds more nimble than your desires. Your 
radiant companion, crowned with white roses like a bride 
of Heaven, wept at your anguish. Perhaps she was mur- 
muring melodious litanies to the Virgin, while the demoni- 
acal cravings of the flesh were haunting you with their 
shameless clamour, and you disdained the divine fruits of 
that ecstasy in which I live, though shortening my life.' 

'Your exaltation, my dear Vendramin,' replied Emilie, 
calmly, ' is still beneath reality. Who can describe that 
purely physical exhaustion in which we are left by the 
abuse of a dream of pleasure, leaving the soûl still eternally 
craving, and the spirit in clear possession of its faculties ? 

' But I am weary of this torment, which is that of Tan- 
talus. This is my last night on earth. After one final 
effort, our Mother shall hâve her child again — the Adriatic 
will silence my last sigh ' 

'Are you idiotie?' cried Vendramin. 'No; you are 
mad ; for madness, the crisis we despise, is the memory of 
an antécédent condition acting on our présent state of 
being. The genius of my dreams has taught me that, and 
much else ! You want to make one of the Duchess and la 
Tinti ; nay, dear Emilio, take them separately ; it will be 
far wiser. Raphaël alone ever united form and idea. You 
want to be the Raphaël of love ; but chance cannot be 
commanded. Raphaël was a "fluke" of God's création, 
for He foreordained that form and idea should be antago- 
nistic ; otherwise nothing could live. When the first cause 

Massimilla Doni 321 

is more potent than the outcome, nothing comes of it. 
We must live either on earth or in the skies. Remain in 
the skies; it is always too soon to corne down to earth.' 

' I will take the Duchess home,' said the Prince, ' and 
make a last attempt — afterwards ? ' 

*■ Afterwards,' cried Vendramin, anxiously, ' promise to 
call for me at Florian's.' 

'I will.' 

This dialogue, in modem Greek, with which Vendra- 
min and Emilio were familiar, as many Venetians are, was 
unintelligible to the Duchess and to the Frenchman. 
Although he was quite outside the little circle that held 
the Duchess, Emilio and Vendramin together — for thèse 
three understood each other by means of Italian glances, 
by turns arch and keen, or veiled and sidelong — the 
physician at last discerned part of the truth. An earnest 
entreaty from the Duchess had prompted Vendramin's 
suggestion to Emilio, for Massamilla had begun to suspect 
the misery endured by her lover in that cold empyrean 
where he was wandering, though she had no suspicions 
of la Tinti. 

' Thèse two young men are mad ! ' said the doctor. 

'As to the Prince,' said the Duchess, 'trust me to cure 
him. As to Vendramin, if he cannot understand this 
sublime music, he is perhaps incurable.' 

' If you would but tell me the cause of their madness, 
I could cure them,' said the Frenchman. 

' And since when hâve great physicians ceased to read 
men's minds ? ' said she, jestingly. 

The ballet was long since ended ; the second act of 
Afosé was beginning. The pit was perfectly attentive. 
A rumour had got abroad that Duke Cataneo had lectured 
Genovese, representing to him what injury he was doing 
to Clarina, the diva of the day. The second act would 
certainly be magnificent. 

' The Egyptian Prince and his father are on the stage,' 


322 Massimilla Doni 

said the Duchess, ' They hâve yielded once more, though 
insulting the Hebrews, but they are trembling with rage. 
The father congratulâtes himself on his son's approaching 
marriage, and the son is in despair at this fresh obstacle, 
though it only increases his love, to which everything is 
opposed. Genovese and Carthagenova are singing ad- 
mirably. As you see, the ténor is making his peace with 
the house. How well he brings out the beauty of the 
music ! The phrase given out by the son on the tonic, 
and repeated by the father on the dominant, is ail in 
character with the simple, serions scheme which prevails 
throughout the score; the sobriety of it makes the endless 
variety of the music ail the more wonderful. Ail Egypt 
is there. 

' I do not believe that there is in modem music a com- 
position more perfectly noble. The solemn and majestic 
paternity of a king is fully expressed in that magnificent 
thème, in harmony with the grand style that stamps the 
opéra throughout. The idea of a Pharaoh's son pouring 
out his sorrows on his father's bosom could surely not be 
more admirably represented than in this grand imagery. 
Do you not yourself feel a sensé of the splendour we are 
wont to attribute to that monarch of antiquity ? ' 

' It is indeed sublime music,' said the Frenchman. 

' The air Pace mia smarrita^ which the Queen will now 
sing, is one of those hravura songs which every composer 
is compelled to introduce, though they mar the gênerai 
scheme of the work ; but an opéra would as often as not 
never see the light, if the prima donna's vanity were not 
duly flattered. Still, this musical " sop " is so fine in 
itself that it is performed as written, on every stage ; it is 
so brilliant that the leading lady does not substitute her 
favourite show pièce, as is very commonly donc in 

' And now comes the most striking movement in the 
score : the duet between Osiride and Élcia in the subter- 

Massimilla Doni 323 

ranean chamber where he has hidden her to keep her from 
the departing Israélites, and to fly with her himself from 
Egypt. The lovers are then intruded on by Aaron, who 
has been to warn Amalthea, and we get the grandest of ail 
quartettes : Ali manca la voce^ mi sento morire. This is one 
of those masterpieces that will survive in spite of time, 
that destroyer of fashion in music, for it speaks the 
language of the soûl which can never change. Mozart 
holds his own by the {?imo\xs finale to Don Giovanni; Mar- 
cello, by his psalm, Coeli enarrant gloriam Dei ; Cimarosa, 
by the air Pria che spujiti ; Beethoven by his C minor sym- 
phony ; Pergolesi, by his Stabat Mater ; Rossini will live 
by Mi manca la voce. What is most to be admired in Ros- 
sini is his command of variety of form ; to produce the 
efFect hère required, he has had recourse to the old structure 
of the canon in unison, to bring the voices in, and merge 
them in the same melody. As the form of thèse sublime 
mélodies was new, he set them in an old frame ; and to 
give it the more relief he has silenced the orchestra, accom- 
panying the voices with the harps alone. It is impossible 
to show greater ingenuity of détail, or to produce a grander 
gênerai effect. — Dear me ! again an outbreak ! ' said the 

Genovese, who had sung his duet with Carthagenova so 
well, was caricaturing himself now that la Tinti was on 
the stage. From a great singer he sank to the level of the 
most worthless chorus singer. 

The most formidable uproar arose that had ever echoed 
to the roof of the Fenice. The commotion only yielded 
to Clarina, and she, furious at the difficulties raised by 
Genovese's obstinacy, sang Mi manca la voce as it will never 
be sung again. The enthusiasm was tremendous ; the 
audience forgot their indignation and rage in pleasure that 
was really acute. 

' She floods my soûl with purple glow ! ' said Capraja, 
waving his hand in bénédiction at la Diva Tinti. 

324 Massimilla Donî 

•■ Heaven send ail its blessings on your head ! ' cried a 

' Pharaoh will now revoke his commands,' said the Duch- 
ess, while the commotion in the pit was calming down. 
* Moses will overwhelm him, even on his throne, by de- 
claring the death of every first-born son in Egypt, sing- 
ing that strain of vengeance which augurs thunders from 
heaven, while above it the Hebrew clarions ring out. But 
you must clearly understand that this air is by Pacini ; 
Carthagenova introduces it instead of that by Rossini. 
This air, Paventa^ will no doubt hold its place in the score; 
it gives a bass too good an opportunity for displaying the 
quality of his voice, and expression hère will carry the day 
rather than science. However, the air is fuU of magnificent 
menace, and it is possible that we may not be long allowed 
to hear it.' 

A thunder of clapping and bravos hailed the song, fol- 
lowed by deep and cautions silence ; nothing could be more 
significant or more thoroughly Venetian than the outbreak 
and its sudden suppression. 

* I need say nothing of the coronation march announcing 
the enthronement of Osiride, intended by the King as a 
challenge to Moses ; to hear it is enough. Their famous 
Beethoven has written nothing grander. And this march, 
fuU of earthly pomp, contrasts finely with the march of the 
Israélites. Compare them, and you will see that the music 
is fuU of purpose. 

' Elcia déclares her love in the présence of the two 
Hebrew leaders, and then renounces it in the fine aria^ 
Porge la destra amata. (Place your beloved hand) Ah ! 
What anguish ! Only look at the house ! ' 

The pit was shouting bravo., when Genovese left the 

' Now, free from her déplorable lover, we shall hear 
Tinti sing, O desoîata Elcia — the tremendous cavatina 
expressive of love disapproved by God.' 

Massimilla Doni ^'^5 

* Where art thou, Rossini ? ' cried Cataneo. *If he could 
but hear the music created by his genius so magnificently 
performed,' he went on. ' Is not Clarina worthy of him?' 
he asked Capraja. ' To give Hfe to those notes by such 
gusts of flame, starting from the lungs and feeding in the 
air on some unknown matter which our ears inhale, and 
which bears us heavenwards in a rapture of love, she must 
be divine ! ' 

* She is like the gorgeous Indian plant, vi^hich deserting 
the earth absorbs invisible nourishment from the atmos- 
phère, and sheds from its spiral w^hite blossom such fra- 
grant vapours as fill the brain with dreams,' replied 

On being recalled, la Tinti appeared alone. She was 
received with a storm of applause ; a thousand kisses vi^ere 
blown to her from finger-tips ; she was pelted with roses, 
and a wreath was made of the flowers snatched from the 
ladies' caps, almost ail sent out from Paris. 

The cavatina was encored. 

' How eagerly Capraja, with his passion for embellish- 
ments, must hâve looked forward to this air, which dérives 
ail its value from exécution,' remarked Massimilla. ' Hère 
Rossini has, so to speak, given the reins over to the singer's 
fancy. Her cadenzas and her feeling are everything. With 
a poor voice or inferior exécution, it would be nothing — 
the throat is responsible for the efFects of this aria. 

' The singer has to express the most intense anguish, — 
that of a woman who sees her lover dying before her very 
eyes. La Tinti makes the house ring with her highest 
notes ; and Rossini, to leave pure singing free to do its 
utmost, has written it in the simplest, clearest style. 
Then, as a crowning effort, he has composed those heart- 
rending musical cries: Tormenti ! Affanni! Smanie ! 
What grief, what anguish, in those runs. And la Tinti, 
you see, has quite carried the house off its feet.' 

The Frenchman, bewildered by this adoring admiration 

326 Massimilk Doni 

throughout a vast théâtre for the source of its delight, hère 
had a glimpse of genuine Italian nature. But neither the 
Duchess nor the two young men paid any attention to the 
ovation. Clarina began again. 

The Duchess feared that she was seeing her Emilio for 
the last time. As to the Prince : in the présence of the 
Duchess, the sovereign divinity who lifted him to the 
skies, he had forgotten where he was, he no longer heard 
the voice of the woman who had initiated him into the 
mysteries of earthly pleasure, for deep déjection made his 
ears tingle with a chorus of plaintive voices, half-drowned 
in a rushing noise as of pouring rain. 

Vendramin saw himself in an ancient Venetian cos- 
tume, looking on at the ceremony of the Bucentaur. The 
Frenchman, who plainly discerned that some strange and 
painful mystery stood between the Prince and the Duchess, 
was racking his brain with shrewd conjecture to discover 
what it could be. 

The scène had changed. In front of a fine picture, 
representing the Désert and the Red Sea, the Egyptians 
and Hebrews marched and countermarched without any 
efFect on the feelings of the four persons in the Duchess's 
box. But when the first chords on the harps preluded the 
hymn of the delivered Israélites, the Prince and Vendramin 
rose and stood leaning against the opposite sides of the 
box, and the Duchess, resting her elbow on the velvet 
ledge, supported her head on her left hand. 

The Frenchman, understanding from this little stir, how 
important this justly famous chorus was in the opinion of 
the house, listened with devout attention. 

The audience, with one accord, shouted for its répétition. 

' I feel as if I were celebrating the libération of Italy,' 
thought a Milanese. 

' Such music lifts up bowed heads, and revives hope in 
the most torpid,' said a man from the Romagna. 

' In this scène,' said Massimilla, whose émotion was 

Massimilla Doni 327 

évident, ' science is set aside. Inspiration, alone, dictated 
this masterpiece ; it rose from the composer's soûl like a 
cry of love ! As to the accompaniment, it consists of the 
harps ; the orchestra appears only at the last répétition of 
that heavenly strain. Rossini can never rise higher than 
in this prayer ; he will do as good work, no doubt, but 
never better : the sublime is always equal to itself; but 
this hymn is one of the things that will always be sublime. 
The only match for such a conception might be found in 
the psalms of the great Marcello, a noble Venetian, who 
was to music what Giotto was to painting. The majesty 
of the phrase, unfolding itself with épisodes of inexhaustible 
melody, is comparable with the finest things ever invented 
by religious writers. 

' How simple is the structure ! Moses opens the attack 
in G minor, ending in a cadenza in B flat which allows the 
chorus to corne in, pianissimo at first, in B flat, returning by 
modulations to G minor. This splendid treatment of the 
voices, recurring three times, ends in the last strophe with 
a stretto in G major of absolutely overpowering effect. We 
feel as though this hymn of a nation released from slavery, 
as it mounts to heaven, were met by kindred strains falling 
from the higher sphères. The stars respond with joy to 
the ecstasy of liberated mortals. The rounded fulness of 
the rhythm, the deliberate dignity of the gradations leading 
up to the outbursts of thanksgiving, and its slow return 
raise heavenly images in the soûl. Could you not fancy 
that you saw heaven open, angels holding sistrums of gold, 
prostrate seraphs swinging their fragrant censers, and the 
archangels leaning on the flaming swords with which they 
hâve vanquished the heathen ? 

' The secret of this music and its refreshing effect on 
the soûl is, I believe, that of a very few works of human 
genius ; it carries us for the moment into the infinité ; we 
feel it within us ; we see it, in those mélodies as boundless 
as the hymns sung round the throne of God. Rossini's 

328 Massimilla Doni 

genius carries us up to prodigious heights, whence we look 
down on a promised land, and our eyes, charmed by 
heavenly light, gaze into limitless space. Elcia's last strain, 
having almost recovered from her grief, brings a feeling of 
earth-born passion into this hymn of thanksgiving. This, 
again, is a touch of genius. 

* Aye, sing ! ' exclaimed the Duchess, as she listened to 
the last stanza with the same gloomy enthusiasm as the 
singers threw into it. ' Sing ! You are free ! ' 

The words were spoken in a voice that startled the 
physician. To divert Massimilla from her bitter reflec- 
tions, while the excitement of recalling la Tinti was at its 
height, he engaged her in one of the arguments in which 
the French excel. 

'Madame,' said he, 'in explaining this grand work — 
which I shall come to hear again to-morrow with a fuUer 
compréhension, thanks to you, of its structure and its 
effect — you hâve frequently spoken of the colour of the 
music, and of the ideas it depicts ; now I, as an analyst, a 
materialist, must confess that I hâve always rebelled against 
the affectation of certain enthusiasts, who try to make us 
believe that music paints with tones. Would it not be the 
same thing if Raphael's admirers spoke of his singing with 
colours ? ' 

' In the language of musicians,' replied the Duchess, 
*• painting is arousing certain associations in our soûls, or 
certain images in our brain ; and thèse memories and 
images hâve a colour of their own ; they are sad or cheer- 
ful. You are battling for a word, that is ail. According 
to Capraja, each instrument has its task, its mission, and 
appeals to certain ideas, just as each colour is associated 
with certain feelings in our soûls. Does a pattern in gold 
on a blue ground produce the same sensations in you as a 
red pattern on black or green ? In thèse, as in music, 
there are no figures, no expression of feeling; they are 
purely artistic, and yet no one looks at them with indif- 

Massimilla Doni 329 

ference. Has not the ohoe the peculiar tone that we asso- 
ciate with the open country, in common with most wind 
instruments ? The brass suggests martial ideas, and rouses 
us to véhément or even somewhat furious feelings. The 
strings, for which the material is derived from the organic 
world, seem to appeal to the subtlest fibres of our nature ; 
they go to the very depths of the heart. When I spoke of 
the gloomy hue, and the coldness of the tones in the intro- 
duction to Alosè^ was I not fuUy as much justified as your 
critics are when they speak of the " colour " in a writer's 
language ? Do you not acknowledge that there is a ner- 
vous style, a pallid style, a lively, and a highly-coloured 
style ? Art can paint with words, sounds, colours, Unes, 
form ; the means are many ; the resuit is one. 

'An Italian architect might give us the same sensation 
that is produced in us by the introduction to Alosè^ by con- 
structing a walk through dark, damp avenues of tall, thick 
trees, and bringing us out suddenly in a valley full of 
streams, flowers, and mills, and basking in the sunshine. 
In their greatest moments the arts are but the expression 
of the grand scènes of nature. 

* I am not learned enough to enlarge on the philosophy 
of music ; go and talk to Capraja ; you will be amazed at 
what he can tell you. He will say that every instrument 
that dépends on the touch or breath of man for its expres- 
sion and length of note, is superior as a vehicle of expres- 
sion to colour, which remains fixed, or speech, which has 
its limits. The language of music is infinité ; it includes 
everything ; it can express ail things. 

' Now do you see wherein lies the prééminence of the 
work you hâve just heard ? I can explain it in a few 
words. There are two kinds of music : one, petty, poor, 
second-rate, always the same, based on a hundred or so of 
phrases which every musician has at his command, a more 
or less agreeable form of babble which most composers live 
in. We listen to their strains, their would-be mélodies. 

330 Massimilla Doni 

with more or less satisfaction, but absolutely nothing is left 
in our mind ; by the end of a century they are forgotten. 
But the nations, from the beginning of time till our own 
day, hâve cherished as a precious treasure certain strains 
which epitomise their instincts and habits ; I might almost 
say their history. Listen to one of thèse primitive tones, — 
the Gregorian chant, for instance, is, in sacred song, the 
inheritance of the earliest peoples, — and you will lose your- 
self in deep dreaming. Strange and immense conceptions 
will unfold within you, in spite of the extrême simplicity of 
thèse rudimentary relies. And once or twice in a century 
— not oftener, there arises a Homer of music, to whom 
God grants the gift of being ahead of his âge; men who 
can compact mélodies full of accomplished facts, pregnant 
with mighty poetry. Think of this ; remember it. The 
thought, repeated by you, will prove fruitful ; it is melody, 
not harmony, that can survive the shocks of time. 

' The music of this oratorio contains a whole world of 
great and sacred things. A work which begins with that 
introduction and ends with that prayer is immortal — as 
immortal as the Easter hymn, O filïi et filice^ as the Dies 
ires of the dead, as ail the songs which in every land hâve 
outlived its splendour, its happiness, and its ruined pros- 

The tears the Duchess wiped away as she quitted her 
box showed plainly that she was thinking of the Venice 
that is no more ; and Vendramin kissed her hand. 

The performance ended with the most extraordinary 
chaos of noises : abuse and hisses hurled at Genovese and a 
fit of frenzy in praise of la Tinti. It was a long time 
since the Venetians had had so lively an evening. They 
were warmed and revived by that antagonism which is 
never lacking in Italy, where the smallest towns always 
throve on the antagonistic interests of two factions : the 
Guelfs and Ghibellines every where ; the Capulets and the 
Montagues at Verona ; the Geremei and the Lomelli at 

Massimilla Doni 331 

Bologna ; the Fieschi and the Doria at Genoa ; the patri- 
cians and the populace, the Senate and tribunes of the 
Roman republic ; the Pazzi and the Medici at Florence ; 
the Sforza and the Visconti at Milan ; the Orsini and the 
Colonna at Rome, — in short, every where and on every 
occasion there has been the same impulse. 

Out in the streets there were already Genovists and 

The Prince escorted the Duchess, more depressed than 
ever by the loves of Osiride ; she feared some similar dis- 
aster to her own, and could only cling to Emilio, as if to 
keep him next her heart. 

* Remember your promise,' said Vendramin. '- 1 will 
wait for you in the square.' 

Vendramin took the Frenchman's arm, proposing that 
they should walk together on the Piazza San Marco while 
awaiting the Prince. 

' I shall be only too glad if he should not corne,' he 

This was the text for a conversation between the two, 
Vendramin regarding it as a favourable opportunity for 
Consulting the physician, and telling him the singular 
position Emilio had placed himself in. 

The Frenchman did as every Frenchman does on ail 
occasions : he laughed. Vendramin, who took the mat- 
ter very seriously, was angry ; but he was moUified when 
the disciple of Majendie, of Cuvier, of Dupuytren, and 
of Brossais assured him that he believed he could cure the 
Prince of his high-flown raptures, and dispel the heavenly 
poetry in which he shrouded Massimilla as in a cloud. 

' A happy form of misfortune ! ' said he. ' The ancients, 
who were not such fools as might be inferred from their 
crystal heaven and their ideas on physics, symbolised in 
the fable of Ixion the power which nullifies the body and 
makes the spirit lord of ail.' 

22'2 Massimilla Doni 

Vendramin and the doctor presently met Genovese, and 
with him the fantastic Capraja. The melomaniac was 
anxious to learn the real cause of the tenor's ^asco. Geno- 
vese, the question being put to him, talked fast, like ail 
men who can intoxicate themselves by the ebullition of 
ideas suggested to them by a passion. 

' Yes, Signori, I love her, I worship her with a frenzy 
of which I never believed myself capable, now that I am 
tired of vi^omen. Women play the mischief with art. 
Pleasure and work cannot be carried on together. Clara 
fancies that I was jealous of her success, that I wanted to 
hinder her triumph at Venice ; but I was clapping in the 
side-scenes, and shouted Diva louder than any one in the 

' But even that,' said Cataneo, joining them, ' does not 
explain why, from being a divine singer, you should hâve 
become one of the most exécrable performers who ever 
piped air through his larynx, giving none of the charm 
even which enchants and bewitches us.' 

' I ! ' said the singer. ' I a bad singer ! I who am the 
equal of the greatest performers ! ' 

By this time, the doctor and Vendramin, Capraja, 
Cataneo, and Genovese had made their way to the piaz- 
zetta. It was midnight. The glittering bay, outlined by 
the churches of San Giorgio and San Paulo at the end of 
the Giudecca, and the beginning of the Grand Canal, that 
opens so mysteriously under the Dogana and the church of 
Santa Maria délia Salute, lay glorious and still. The moon 
shone on the barques along the Riva de' Schiavoni. The 
waters of Venice, where there is no tide, looked as if they 
were alive, dancing with a myriad spangles. Never had 
a singer a more splendid stage. 

Genovese, with an emphatic flourish, seemed to call 
Heaven and Earth to witness ; and then, with no accom- 
paniment but the lapping waves, he sang Ombra adorata^ 
Crescentini's great air. The song, rising up between the 

Massimilla Doni 233 

statues of San Teodoro and San Giorgio, in the heart of 
sleeping Venice lighted by the moon, the words, in such 
strange harmony with the scène, and the melancholy pas- 
sion of the singer, held the Italians and the Frenchman 

At the very first notes, Vendramin's face was wet with 
tears. Capraja stood as motionless as one of the statues 
in the ducal palace. Cataneo seemed moved to some feel- 
ing. The Frenchman, taken by surprise, was méditative, 
like a man of science in the présence of a phenomenon 
that upsets ail his fundamental axioms. Thèse four minds, 
ail so différent, whose hopes were so small, who believed 
in nothing for themselves or after themselves, who regarded 
their own existence as that of a transient and fortuitous 
being, — like the little life of a plant or a beetle, — had a 
glimpse of Heaven. Never did music more truly merit 
the epithet divine. The consoling notes, as they were 
poured out, enveloped their soûls in soft and soothing airs. 
On thèse vapours, almost visible, as it seemed to the lis- 
teners, like the marble shapes about them in the silver 
moonlight, angels sat whose wings, devoutly waving, ex- 
pressed adoration and love. The simple, artless melody 
penetrated to the soûl as with a beam of light. It was 
a holy passion ! 

But the singer's vanity roused them from their émotion 
with a terrible shock. 

' Now, am I a bad singer ? ' he exclaimed, as he ended. 

His audience only regretted that the instrument was not 
a thing of Heaven. This angelic song was then no more 
than the outcome of a man's offended vanity ! The singer 
felt nothing, thought nothing, of the pious sentiments and 
divine images he could create in others, — no more, in 
fact, than Paganini's violin knows what the player makes 
it utter. What they had seen in fancy was Venice lifting 
its shroud and singing — and it was merely the resuit of 
a tenor's ^asco ! 

334 Massimilla Doni 

' Can you guess the meaning of such a phenomenon ? ' 
the Frenchman asked of Capraja, wishing to make him 
talk, as the Duchess had spoken of him as a profound 

' What phenomenon ? ' said Capraja. 

' Genovese — who is admirable in the absence of la Tinti, 
and when he sings with her is a braying ass.' 

' He obeys an occult law of which one of your chemists 
might perhaps give you the mathematical formula, and 
which the next century will no doubt express in a state- 
ment full of x, ^, and Z», mixed up with little algebraic signs, 
bars, and quirks that give me the colic ; for the finest con- 
ceptions of mathematics do not add much to the sum total 
of our enjoyment. 

' When an artist is so unfortunate as to be full of the 
passion he wishes to express, he cannot depict it because 
he is the thing itself instead of its image. Art is the work 
of the brain, not of the heart. When you are possessed by 
a subject you are a slave, not a master; you are like a king 
besieged by his people. Too keen a feeling, at the moment 
when you want to represent that feeling, causes an insur- 
rection of the sensés against the governing faculty.' 

' Might we not convince ourselves of this by some fur- 
ther experiment ? ' said the doctor. 

' Cataneo, you might bring your ténor and the prima 
donna together again,' said Capraja to his friend. 

' Well, gentlemen,' said the Duke, ' come to sup with 
me. We ought to reconcile the ténor and la Clarina ; 
otherwise the season will be ruined in Venice.' 

The invitation was accepted. 

' Gondoliers ! ' called Cataneo. 

' One minute,' said Vendramin. ' Memmi is waiting 
for me at Florian's ; I cannot leave him to himself. We 
must make him tipsy to-night, or he will kill himself 

' Corpo santo ! ' exclaimed the Duke. ' I must keep that 

Massimilla Doni 23S 

young fellow alive, for the happiness and future prospects 
of my race. I will invite him, too.' 

They ail went back to Florian's, where the assembled 
crowd were holding an eager and stormy discussion to 
which the tenor's arrivai put an end. In one corner, 
near a window looking out on the colonnade, gloomy, with 
a fixed gaze and rigid attitude, Emilio was a dismal image 
of despair, 

' That crazy fellow,' said the physician, in French, to 
Vendramin, ' does not know what he wants. Hère is a 
man who can make of a Massimilla Doni a being apart 
from the rest of création, possessing her in heaven, amid 
idéal splendeur such as no power on earth can make real. 
He can behold his mistress for ever sublime and pure ; can 
always hear within him what we hâve just heard on the 
seashore ; can always live in the light of a pair of eyes 
which create for him the warm and golden glow that sur- 
rounds the Virgin in Titian's Assumption, — after Raphaël 
had invented it or had it revealed to him for the Trans- 
figuration, — and this man only longs to smirch the poem. 

' By my advice he must needs combine his sensual joys 
and his heavenly adoration in one woman. In short, like 
ail the rest of us, he will hâve a mistress. He had a 
divinity, and the wretched créature insists on her being a 
female ! I assure you, Monsieur, he is resigning heaven. 
I will not answer for it that he may not ultimately die of 

' O ye women's faces, delicately outlined in a pure and 
radiant oval, reminding us of those créations of art where it 
has most successfully competed with nature ! Divine feet 
that cannot walk, slender forms that an earthly breeze 
would break, shapes too frail ever to conceive, virgins that 
we dreamed of as we grew out of childhood, admired in 
secret, and adored without hope, veiled in the beams of 
some unwearying désire, — maids whom we may never see 
again, but whose smile remains suprême in our life, what 

23^ Massimilla Doni 

hog of Epicurus could insist on dragging you down to the 
mire of this earth ! 

' The Sun, Monsieur, gives light and heat to the world, 
only because it is at a distance of thirty-three millions of 
leagues, Get nearer to it, and science warns you that it is 
not really hot or luminous, — for science is of some use,' 
he added, looking at Capraja. 

' Not so bad for a Frenchman and a doctor,' said Capraja, 
patting the foreigner on the shoulder. ' You hâve in those 
words explained the thing which Europeans least under- 
stand in ail Dante: his Béatrice. Yes, Béatrice, that idéal 
figure, the queen of the poet's fancies, chosen above ail the 
elect, consecrated with tears, deified by memory, and for 
ever young in the présence of ineffectuai désire ! ' 

'Prince,' said the Duke to Emilio, 'corne and sup with 
me. You cannot refuse the poor Neapolitan whom you 
hâve robbed both of his wife and of his mistress.' 

This broad Neapolitan jest, spoken with an aristocratie 
good manner, made Emilio smile ; he allowed the Duke to 
take his arm and lead him away. 

Cataneo had already sent a messenger to his house from 
the café. 

As the Palazzo Memmi was on the Grand Canal, not 
far from Santa Marie délia Salute, the way thither on foot 
was round by the Rialto, or it could be reached in a gon- 
dola. The four guests would not separate and preferred 
to walk ; the Duke's infirmities obliged him to get into his 

At about two in the morning anybody passing the 
Memmi palace would hâve seen light pouring out of every 
window across the Grand Canal, and hâve heard the de- 
lightful overture to Semiramide performed at the foot of the 
steps by the orchestra of the Fen'ice^ as a sérénade to la 

The Company were at supper in the second floor gallery. 
From the balcony la Tinti in return sang Almavida's Buona 

Massimilla Doni 337 

sera from // Barbiere^ while the Duke's steward distributed 
payment from his master to the poor artists and bid them 
to dinner the next day, such civilities as are expected oï 
grand signors who protect singers, and of fine ladies who 
protect ténors and basses. In thèse cases there is nothing 
for it but to marry ail the corps de théâtre. 

Cataneo did things handsomely ; he was the manager's 
banker, and this season was costing him two thousand 

He had had ail the palace furnished, had imported a 
French cook, and wines of ail lands. So the supper was a 
régal entertainment. 

The Prince, seated next la Tinti, was keenly alive 
ail through the meal, to what poets in every language call 
the darts of love. The transcendental vision of Massi- 
milla was eclipsed, just as the idea of God is sometimes 
hidden by clouds of doubt in the consciousness of solitary 
thinkers. Clarina thought herself the happiest woman in 
the world as she perceived Emilio was in love with her. 
Confident of retaining him, her joy was reflected in her 
features, her beauty was so dazzling that the men, as they 
lifted their glasses, could not resist bowing to her with 
instinctive admiration. 

'The Duchess is not to compare with la Tinti,' said the 
Frenchman, forgetting his theory under the fire of the 
Sicilian's eyes. 

The ténor ate and drank languidly ; he seemed to care 
only to identify himself with the prima donna's life, and 
had lost the hearty sensé of enjoyment which is character- 
istic of Italian men singers. 

' Come, Signorina,' said the Duke, with an imploring 
glance at Clarina, ' and you, caro primo uomo^ he added to 
Genovese, ' unité your voices in one perfect sound. Let 
us bave the C of ^ual portento^ when light appears in the 
oratorio we hâve just heard, to convince my old friend 
Capraja of the superiority of unison to any embellishment. 


338 Massimilla Doni 

' I will carry her off from that Prince she is in love 
with ; for she adores him — it stares me in the face ! ' said 
Genovese to himself. 

What was the amazement of the guests who had heard 
Genovese out of doors, when he began to bray, to coo, 
mew, squeal, gargle, bellow, thunder, bark, shriek, even 
produce sounds which could only be described as a hoarse 
rattle, — in short, go through an incompréhensible farce, 
while his face was transfigured with rapturous expression 
like that of a martyr, as painted by Zurbaran or Murillo, 
Titian or Raphaël, The gênerai shout of laughter changed 
to almost tragical gravity when they saw that Genovese 
was in utter earnest. La Tinti understood that her com- 
panion was in love with her, and had spoken the truth on 
the stage, the land of falsehood. 

*■ Poverino ! ' she murmured, stroking the Prince's hand 
under the table. 

' By ail that is holy ! ' cried Capraja, ' will you tell me 
what score you are reading at this moment — murdering 
Rossini ? Pray inform us what you are thinking about, 
what démon is struggling in your throat.' 

' A démon ! ' cried Genovese, ' say rather the god of 
music. My eyes, like those of Saint-Cecilia, can see 
angels, who, pointing with their fingers, guide me along 
the lines of the score which is written in notes of fire, and 
I am trying to keep up with them. Per Dio ! do you not 
understand ? The feeling that inspires me has passed into 
my being ; it fills my heart and my lungs ; my soûl and 
throat hâve but one life. 

' Hâve you never, in a dream, listened to the most glo- 
rious strains, the ideas of unknown composers who hâve 
made use of pure Sound as nature has hidden it in ail things, 
— Sound which we call forth, more or less perfectly, by 
the instruments we employ to produce masses of various 
colour ; but which in those dream-concerts are heard free 
from the imperfections of the performers who cannot be ail 

Massimilla Doni 339 

feeling, ail soûl ? And I, I give you that perfection, and 
you abuse me ! 

' You are as mad as the pit of the Fenice^ who hissed me ! 
I scorned the vulgar crowd for not being able to m.ount 
with me to the heights whence we reign over art, and I 
appeal to men of mark, to a Frenchman — Why, he is 
gone ! ' 

' Half an hour ago,' said Vendramin. 

' That is a pity. He, perhaps, would hâve understood 
me, since Italians, lovers of art, do not ' 

' On you go ! ' said Capraja, with a smile, and tapping 
lightly on the tenor's head. * Ride off on the divine 
Ariosto's hippogriff; hunt down your radiant chimera, 
musical visionary as you are ! ' 

In point of fact, ail the others, believing that Genovese 
was drunk, let him talk without listening to him. Capraja 
alone had understood the case put by the French physician. 

While the vi^ine of Cyprus vi^as loosening every tongue, 
and each one was prancing on his favourite hobby, the 
doctor, in a gondola, was waiting for the Duchess, having 
sent her a note written by Vendramin. Massimilla ap- 
peared in her night wrapper, so much had she been alarmed 
by the tone of the Prince's farewell, and so startled by the 
hopes held out by the letter. 

' Madame,' said the Frenchman, as he placed her in a 
seat and desired the gondoliers to start, ' at this moment 
Prince Emilio's life is in danger, and you alone can save 

' What is to be donc ? ' she asked. 

' Ah ! Can you resign yourself to play a degrading part 
— in spite of the noblest face to be seen in Italy ? Can 
you drop from the blue sky where you dwell, into the bed 
of a courtesan ? In short, can you, an angel of refine- 
ment, of pure and spotless beauty, condescend to imagine 
what the love must be of a Tinti — in her room, and so 

340 Massimilla Doni 

efFectually as to deceive the ardour of Emilio, who is 
indeed too drunk to be very clear-sighted ? ' 

' Is that ail ? ' said she, with a smile that betrayed to 
the Frenchman a side he had not as yet perceived of the 
delightful nature of an Italian woman in love. ' I will 
out-do la Tinti, if need be, to save my friend's life.' 

' And you will thus fuse into one two kinds of love, 
which he sees as distinct — divided by a mountain of 
poetic fancy, that will melt away like the snow on a 
glacier under the beams of the midsummer sun.' 

' I shall be eternally your debtor,' said the Duchess, 

When the French doctor returned to the gallery, where 
the orgy had by this time assumed the stamp of Venetian 
frenzy, he had a look of satisfaction which the Prince, 
absorbed by la Tinti, failed to observe ; he was promis- 
ing himself a répétition of the intoxicating delights he 
had known. La Tinti, a true Sicilian, was floating on 
the tide of a fantastic passion on the point of being 

The doctor whispered a few words to Vendramin, and 
la Tinti was uneasy. 

'What are you plotting ? ' she inquired of the Princc's 

' Are you kind-hearted ? ' said the doctor in her ear, with 
the sternness of an operator. 

The words pierced to her compréhension like a dagger- 
thrust to her heart. 

* It is to save Emilio's life,' added Vendramin. 

'Come hère,' said the doctor to Clarina. 

The hapless singer rose and went to the other end of 
the table where, between Vendramin and the Frenchman, 
she looked like a criminal between the confessor and the 

She struggled for a long time, but yielded at last for love 
of Emilio. 

Massimilla Doni 341 

The doctor's last words were, — 

' And you must cure Genovese ! * 

She spoke a word to the ténor as she went round the 
table. She returned to the Prince, put her arm round his 
neck and kissed his hair with an expression of despair 
which struck Vendramin and the Frenchman, the only two 
who had their wits about them, then she vanished into 
her room. Emilio, seeing Genovese leave the table, while 
Cataneo and Capraja were absorbed in a long musical dis- 
cussion, stole to the door of the bedroom, lifted the curtain, 
and skipped in, like an eel into the mud. 

* But you see, Cataneo,' said Capraja, ' you hâve exacted 
the last drop of physical enjoyment, and there you are, 
hanging on a wire like a cardboard harlequin, patterned 
with scars, and never moving unless the string is pulled of 
a perfect unison.' 

' And you, Capraja, who hâve squeezed ideas dry, are 
not you in the same predicament ? Do not you live riding 
the hobby of a caderi'z.a ? ' 

' I ? I possess the whole world ! ' cried Capraja, with 
a sovereign gesture of his hand. 

* And I hâve devoured it ! ' replied the Duke. 

They observed that the physician and Vendramin were 
gone, and that they were alone. 

Next morning, after a night of perfect happiness, the 
Prince's sleep was disturbed by a dream. He felt on his 
heart the trickle of pearls, dropped there by an angel : he 
woke, and found himself bathed in the tears of Massimilla 
Doni. He was lying in her arms, and she gazed at him as 
he slept. 

That evening, at the Fenice^ — though la Tinti had not 
allowed him to rise till two in the afternoon, which is said 
to be very bad for a ténor voice, — Genovese sang divinely 
in his part in Semiramide. He was recalled with la Tinti, 
fresh crowns were given, the pit was wild with delight ; 

34^ Massimilla Doni 

the ténor no longer attempted to charm the prima donna 
by angelic methods. 

Vendramin was the only person whom the doctor could 
not cure. Love for a country that has ceased to be is a 
love beyond curing. The young Venetian, by dint of liv- 
ing in bis thirteenth century republic, and in the arms of 
that pernicious courtesan called opium, vi^hen he found 
himself in the work-a-day world to which reaction brought 
him, succumbed, pitied and regretted by bis friends. 

Now, hov/ shall the end of this adventure be told — for 
it is too disastrously domestic. A word will be enough for 
the worshippers of the idéal. 

The Duchess w^as expecting an infant. 

The Péris, the naiads, the fairies, the sylphs of ancient 
legend, the Muses of Greece, the Marble Virgins of the 
Certosa at Pavia, the Day and Night of Michael Angelo, 
the little Angels which Bellini w^as the first to put at the 
foot of bis Church pictures, and which Raphaël painted so 
divinely in bis Virgin with the Donor, and the Madonna 
who shivers at Dresden, the lovely Maidens by Orcagna 
in the Church of San-Michee, at Florence, the celestial 
choir round the Tomb in Saint-Sebaldus, at Nuremberg, the 
Virgins of the Duomo, at Milan, the whole population of 
a hundred Gothic Cathedrals, ail the race of beings who 
burst their mould to visit you, great Imaginative artists — 
ail thèse angelic and disembodied maidens gathered round 
Massimilla's bed, and wept ! 

Paris, May 2Jtb, l8jç. 


^ \ 






Balzac, Honore de 
Comédie huraa.ine